Beginning May 2022, the Village of Flossmoor Police Department began a Body-Worn Camera program for the entire Police Department. Nationwide, the use of body-worn cameras has become a common practice for police departments and seven states now mandate statewide use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement officers. As part of the criminal justice reform bill HB 3653, recently signed by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Illinois requires every police officer in the state to wear a body camera by 2025.
Law enforcement agencies use body-worn cameras for a number of different reasons, including improving evidence collection, strengthening officer performance and accountability, enhancing transparency, and assisting in the investigation of complaints, among others. Studies have shown that the presence of a body-worn camera has a positive effect on the behavior of both officers and citizens during encounters [Police Executive Research Forum; 2014]. A body-worn camera is another of many tools available to an officer, but it should not be considered a total solution.
Frequently Asked Questions
Seven states now mandate the statewide use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement officers. Those states are Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Carolina. As part of the criminal justice reform bill HB 3653 recently signed by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, every police officer in the state will be required to wear a body camera by 2025.
Among the police executives whose departments use body-cameras, there is an overall perception that the cameras provide a useful tool for law enforcement. These agencies cite perceived benefits that include capturing video of critical incidents and encounters with the public, strengthening public accountability, and providing a valuable new type of evidence. [Police Executive Research Forum; published 2014]
The Flossmoor Police Department BWC policy is available for review in its entirety below.
- How will residents know if an officer is using the camera correctly? When should the camera be turned on and how will I know if it’s on?
Cameras will be activated manually by the officer on every call under the law [50ILCS 706/10-20] or when the officer’s squad car camera is activated. Cameras will display a red flashing light when recording. Cameras can and may function in “dark mode” to allow an officer to conceal their location; this is for the officer’s safety in certain situations. The command staff will conduct audit checks on the proper use of the BWC.
- I understand that body camera video has been a key tool for enhancing transparency in policing and providing crucial information in use of force incidents. How can I view the video if I’m involved in such an incident or one of my family is involved?
You can request a copy of BWC and police squad dash camera footage by completing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request form at www.flossmoor.org, or you can come to the Flossmoor Police Station located at 2800 Flossmoor Rd., and complete a FOIA request form. Our records clerks are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist you with completing the form.
- Will FPD officers have specific instructions for when to start recording, when to announce recording and consequences of not following those instructions?
Yes. The Flossmoor Police Department’s policy provides direction on BWC activation, cessation and other procedures for signifying videos for evidentiary purposes and the parameters for BWC footage retention. FPD’s BWC Policy #429 will be available in its entirety for public viewing on the Village of Flossmoor’s website www.flossmoor.org. The FPD’s BWC policy is also informed by, and in compliance with the Illinois Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act [50 ILCS 706], which can be viewed in its entirety via the Illinois General Assembly’s website.
- What consequences will there be for an officer who doesn’t hit record according to policy, announce filming, or stops recording?
If an officer fails to activate his or her BWC, fails to announce the act of recording, or stops recording when he or she should not (though there are legitimate reasons as to why that may occur), the totality of the circumstances surrounding the incident will be assessed and/or investigated and if deemed appropriate and necessary, corrective and/or disciplinary action will be administered in accordance with all applicable laws, FPD policies and collective bargaining agreements.
We have purchased body cameras (BWC) that are compatible with our existing in-car system. They will interface with each other.
- I’ve heard it’s very expensive to purchase cameras and other costs associated with cameras. How will these cameras affect FPD expenses and budget? And will costs be passed on to residents in some way?
The implementation of BWCs has been budgeted for and included in the Flossmoor Police Department’s capital equipment budget. BWCs were purchased using general fund monies allocated to the Flossmoor Police Department through the Village’s budget process. However, the Police Department is currently seeking two grant opportunities through the Illinois Police Training and Standards Board and one through our Village’s liability carrier, to reimburse the one-time cost of the BWCs and to offset the Village’s costs for the annual cloud storage system. Each year the FPD will apply for grant opportunities to offset the annual cost. The BWC hardware will be placed on the Department’s capital equipment schedule and they will be upgraded and replaced on a 5-year replacement cycle.
Representatives from the BWC vendor will conduct in-house training on the use and operation. Command staff will conduct policy training and basic operation with the entire department.
- What happens if I suspect an officer has turned off the camera or never turned it on? Am I allowed to say anything to him/her?
Anyone may ask an officer if he or she is following the state statute regarding the use of BWC or why they don’t see the flashing red light.
- Sometimes police officers interview witnesses. Will the cameras be used during those interviews? What if I don’t want my face to be shown?
The BWC will be activated in accordance with the state law. If a witness asks not to be recorded, the recording will be stopped, also in accordance with the state law.
- How will I know whether FPD is following procedures recommended nationally or by nearby municipalities? What happens when a neighboring police department uses a different procedure?
Our BWC policy was written by Lexipol, a private company that specializes in public safety policy and training solutions for public safety agencies and local government. Lexipol has developed BWC policies for a number of other municipalities. The Flossmoor BWC policy will be updated regularly to comply with state law and best practices. Other policies are also reviewed regularly to assure they comply with state law and recommended best practices for BWC.
There is no procedural difference with the use of the BWC between emergency and non-emergency calls. Whenever a Flossmoor Police Department official is in uniform, conducting law enforcement business, the BWC policy will be enforced.
Officers are allowed by state law and FPD policy to view BWC footage for accuracy of the circumstances and sequence of the events captured on the BWC before writing their report except for the following circumstances: (a) When the member (officer) has been involved in or is a witness to an officer-involved shooting, use of deadly force incident, or use of force incident resulting in great bodily harm, and (b) When the officer is ordered to write a report in response to or during the investigation of a misconduct complaint against the member.
If the member prepares a report related to the circumstances listed above, subject to a supervisor’s approval, the member may file a supplemental report after viewing BWC recordings. The member shall document in the supplemental report that the member reviewed recordings (50 ILCS 706/10-20, FPD Policy 429 Body Worn Cameras, 429.8 Review of Recorded Media Files). See FPD Policy 429 for a list of other instances when recorded files may also be reviewed.
Supervisors are responsible for reviewing recordings as part of reviewing officers’ conduct and interactions. According to FPD Policy 429.8, “Supervisors are authorized to review relevant recordings any time they are investigating alleged misconduct or reports of meritorious conduct or whenever such recordings would be beneficial in reviewing an officer’s performance.”
The BWCs will automatically begin to record when the officers activate the overhead emergency lights of their police squads. When an officer exits the vehicle, he or she will be able to manually activate the BWC via the push of a button.
Yes, the BWC will record audio along with video.
Following the state statute, the storage of BWC footage is cloud based and shall be retained for 90 days and shall not be altered, erased, or destroyed prior to the expiration of the 90-day storage period. In the event any recording is altered, erased, or destroyed prior to the expiration of the 90-day storage period, the Chief of Police shall maintain a written record including the name of the individual who made such alteration, erasure, or destruction, and the reason for any such alteration, erasure, or destruction for one year [50 ILCS 706/10-20]. According to our BWC vendor Getac, “Local and centrally stored data is locked and protected from deletion or alteration. Evidence cannot be overwritten. Based on permissions, new metadata may be added to assets, but users may not edit previously captured information.” Simply put, neither FPD officers nor administrative staff will have the capability to alter, erase or destroy BWC footage. Yes, a FOIA request will be required to view lapsed BWC footage.
There are various studies that show use of BWCs have reduced the number of police use of force incidents. The Rialto P.D. study deemed it the “self-awareness effect,” showing both the officers and members of the public’s psyche is affected due to the camera’s “neutral third eye” prompting suspects to “cool down” aggressive actions and deterring officers “from reacting with excessive or unnecessary force.” [Police 1, Force Science Institute, 2/02/15]
Conversely, "In 2017, researchers conducted one of the largest randomized control trials on body cameras that included over 2,000 police officers in Washington, DC, and found that body cameras had no statistically significant impact on officer use of force, civilian complaints, or arrests for disorderly conduct by officers. In other words, body cameras did not reduce police misconduct. A 2020 meta-analysis similarly found substantial uncertainty about whether body cameras can reduce officer use of force. A recent 2021 study did find that on average, body cameras reduced use of force by nearly 10%, but the study’s authors noted that their results may have been inflated by site-selection bias.” (ACLU Washington Jennifer Lee, June 07, 2021.