Minooka, IL — The Minooka Police Department decided that the benefits from police body cameras do not outweigh the inconvenient administrative work associated with their use. They have halted the department use of body cameras after only six months.
In 2013, a high-profile study of the use of police body cameras in Rialto California showed their use to be nothing short of stunning. After body cameras had been implemented, the department saw a 60% reduction in use of force instances and an 88% reduction in officer complaints.
After the highly controversial murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, the topic of police body cameras became part of the national discussion. Departments across the country began adopting the beneficial technology.
However, since then, we’ve seen case after case of individual officers conveniently turning off their body cameras before acting violently or criminally. Also, as was the case in Fresno, California last month, police officers are undeterred about their murderous actions being caught on film.
All the flaws aside, however, body cameras are far better at providing a transparent account of police behavior than reports that can be fudged, as well as citizen complaints. Society, as a whole, benefits from knowing how their armed state agents perform when ‘serving’ the public.
When all the benefits of body cameras are overlooked because of a minor increase in administrative work, the public loses out. And, that is exactly what happened in Minooka, Illinois.
As Morris Herald-News reports:
Last year, Illinois was one of the first states in the country to passlegislation creating comprehensive law enforcement rules for body cameras. The law did not mandate that police departments use them, but it did specify how and when they should be used if a department elects to use them.
Minooka Police Chief Justin Meyer said Friday the issue was not with the functionality of the cameras, but that it became a burden for staff to fill the many requests for video footage.
Meyer, completely ignoring the officer’s duty to collect evidence in cases, ousted the camera program because officers had better things to do besides gather proof of their investigations.
“You could have four officers on a call for a domestic incident,” Meyer said. “If they are on scene for an hour – whether there’s an arrest or not – that’s four hours of video that has to be uploaded.”
BatteryJack of Minooka supplied the cameras which could take 9 hours of continuous video. At the end of each shift, the camera was removed and plugged into a USB port where it would be charged and the video uploaded. Apparently this was too “burdensome for our administrative staff,” according to Meyer.
Meyer went on to complain about the “many requests for the videos from attorneys and anyone else involved in the case” — as if an attorney seeking video evidence of their client should be at all considered a “burden.”
“Officers were required to turn the cameras on for any law enforcement situation, from directing traffic to serious crime responses,” Meyer said, somehow attempting to make the obvious duties of police officers sound like an impossible responsibility.
While laying blame on the administrative tasks associated with police officer accountability via body cam, the cases of police violence around the country paint a different picture of why cops wouldn’t want to wear them.
A report conducted by Colorado’s Office of the Independent Monitor, suggests that the videos we see, account for only a portion of the actual brutality.
In their report, the OIM examined a six-month period of body camera usage within the Denver Police Department. During that six-month trial run for body cameras in the Denver Police Department, only about one out of every four use-of-force incidents involving officers was recorded.
Cases where officers punched people, used pepper spray or Tasers, or struck people with batons were not recorded because officers failed to turn on cameras, technical malfunctions occurred or because the cameras were not distributed to enough people.
Instead of being forced to have to remember to turn their body cameras off prior to capturing their unscrupulous actions on video, the Minooka police department will no longer have to worry about the recordings at all.
Any time transparency is rejected by those sworn to serve the public, society loses. After all, only a government that lives like roaches in the dark would make it impossible for the rest of us to turn on the light.