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Monday
Apr112016

Chicago police soon to wear more body cameras

From the Chicago Tribune

For background, the Chicago Police Department has come under a lot of criticism for its handling of the Laquan McDonald case.  Part of this has focused on the surveillance equipment, for example five of the police cars responding had dash cams, but they were all broken.  

As part of the fallout, their has been an emphasis on police accountability using body cameras.  The city has purchased 450 body cameras capable of of recording 72 continuous hours of high-definition video and audio on a single charge.  

The new cameras, part of a city pilot program, began in January 2015 in the Shakespeare District, which covers the Logan Square and West Town communities on the North and Northwest sides. The six new police districts, which encompass one-third of the city, cover the South Shore, Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Washington Park, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Back of the Yards, Brighton Park, Bridgeport, Austin, North Lawndale and Little Village communities.

"Body cameras are one tool that the police department uses to serve and protect the people of Chicago," interim Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in a statement. "They play an important role in not just fighting crime, but also in learning from actual encounters with the public. In addition to wearing a body camera myself, I've asked my command staff to wear one as well to demonstrate our commitment to rebuilding trust with the residents we're sworn to serve."

While Johnson's wearing of a camera sounds gimmicky to me, maybe it is carrying a message to the other officers. My immediate concern is trying to understand the effects of these cameras -- do they affect the police's interaction with the public, how it affects the police in doing their work, and what happens with the footage.  One part of the article seemed to revert back to the police department of the past:

Former Superintendent Garry McCarthy was one of the major proponents of the body camera initiative during his tenure as top cop, pointing to research that showed that citizen complaints dropped by as much as 80 percent for some police departments using body cameras.  On Sunday, the department said citizen complaints against police "drastically" dropped in the first phase of the pilot program, though no statistics were given.

So why quote statistics or allude to quantitative measures when you can't back them up?  It also begs the question why did complaints drop, did officers change their behavior or did people react differently to the police wearing cameras?

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