The Arlington Heights Police Department announced Monday, March 28, 2022 the deployment of body worn camera is to be deployed among some police officers this week. In the early part of 2021, the Illinois Safety, Accountability, Fairness and Equity Today (SAFE-T) Act was signed into law by Governor J.B. Pritzker. The sweeping legislation amended many aspects of law enforcement including officer use of force, complaint investigation, mandatory reporting and statutory requirements for the implementation of body worn cameras. While some of the requirements have undergone some degree of modification in the form of subsequent trailer bills, a number of them, including requirements for body worn cameras, have remained largely unchanged.
Body worn cameras provide numerous advantages to law enforcement and the community. During tense situations, body cameras may assist in de-escalation of a potentially aggressive subject knowing their actions are being recorded. Similarly, the cameras provide supplemental evidence for prosecution by clearly showing a judge or jury what an officer saw and/or heard during an encounter with an offender. Body worn cameras also provide for faster and unbiased resolution to potential citizen complaints. The ability to review an incident can decrease the amount of time staff spends conducting investigations and potentially avoid unnecessary costs associated with litigation.
The Arlington Heights Police Department recognized the numerous and unmistakable advantages of equipping officers with body worn cameras. “The ability to capture and document what transpired during an incident on audio and video from the officer’s perspective supports our commitment to instilling the highest level of public confidence,” said Chief Nicholas A. Pecora, Jr. “We had been researching body worn cameras prior to the legislative changes and saw a tremendous value in the technology towards fulfilling our mission. Body worn cameras not only further our professionalism, accountability and transparency with the public, but also protect our officers, organization and Village against unjustified complaints or civil actions.”
During 2021, the Arlington Heights Police Department expanded its research into body worn cameras. Personnel conducted vigorous field testing of available technology, examined best practices and explored digital media storage options. The intention was to develop an implementation plan prior to the legislative requirement. At the end of the year, the Department entered into an agreement with Axon Enterprise Inc., a leading innovator in public safety products. Since that time, police department personnel began a multifaceted process of implementation with a strong focus on training officers in the new technology. The first group of Arlington Heights Police Department officers with body worn cameras will be on the street this week.
Deputy Chief Greg Czernecki, who oversees the training function of the Department stated, “We knew officer training would be a critical aspect going into this project. Even with body worn cameras, we are still obligated to respect the reasonable privacy expectations of citizens as required by law. Similarly, what an officer sees, hears, senses or experiences may not always be plainly captured on body worn cameras. These are just a few examples of topics we cover and put into real-time, scenario-based training prior to deploying the cameras.”
Over the next several weeks, all 109 Arlington Heights Sworn Police Officers and 7 Public Service Officers will complete the necessary training and be equipped with body worn cameras, ahead of the unfunded mandate imposed by legislation. “We know the technology will improve our transparency with the community, help resolve potential complaints in an unbiased manner and assist in criminal prosecution and evidence collection. However, body worn cameras do not change how we conduct day-to-day business. It essentially just captures what we have always been doing. We continue to pledge our mission of ‘Committed to Excellence,’ to our community, ourselves and the law enforcement profession – body camera or not,” stated Chief Pecora. “The Village Board and Administration have always been supportive of projects which enhance our service delivery. We appreciate their commitment to our mission and community we collectively serve.”
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