The Shiloh Police Department’s stash of a dozen new body cameras will stay in the boxes they came in, for now, even though Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday signed an omnibus law enforcement bill that governs the use of the equipment statewide.
That’s because Senate Bill 1304, deemed the Police and Community Relations Improvement Act, additionally contains new requirements and reporting mandates that have nothing to do with body cameras.
“It looks like we’re going to keep our body cameras in their boxes,” Police Chief James Stover said. He said that while much of the law “is very good,” some portions of it are “ridiculous.”
Under the law, Illinois departments are not required to use body cameras, but the departments that do must follow the state guidelines. Some of those include:
▪ Body cameras must be turned on and recording while officers are performing their duties. However, victims of crimes and witnesses can ask officers to stop recording during interviews. Officers also may stop recording when talking to confidential informants.
▪ Police departments must retain body camera footage for 90 days before it’s deleted. Footage that’s flagged as part of an investigation or a complaint against an officer must be kept indefinitely.
▪ The Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards and Review Board would be responsible for setting additional, more specific rules that local departments must incorporate into their individual body camera policies.
▪ When responding to Freedom of Information Act requests for video footage, police departments must digitally redact images of people not directly involved in an incident by manually blurring their faces or other identifying information.
But Stover is among the local police leaders who are worried about other mandates in the law that have nothing to do with body cameras. Some of those mandates include:
▪ Officer-involved death investigations must be carried out by independent homicide detectives.
▪ The Illinois State Police is to manage a statewide repository for crime statistics.
▪ Beginning in January 2016, departments must file monthly reports to ISP documenting any arrest-related deaths. In July 2016, they must begin filing reports detailing criminal homicides. Starting in January 2017, departments will have to file reports detailing any officer-involved shootings that result in an injury.
▪ The act would create a state board that keeps track of police officers who have resigned or have been terminated due to a misconduct investigation.
▪ All officers would be required to receive use-of-force training once a year and receive constitutional authority, civil rights and cultural competency training every three years.
▪ Officers would be newly required to distribute receipts, called “stop cards,” to any pedestrians they choose to stop. Those cards must include the officer’s name, badge number and a reason why the stop was initiated.
Stover said the added reporting requirements departments would have to follow if they choose to start a body camera program were too burdensome, especially when lawmakers “haven’t put any more funding in there anywhere.”
Rauner signed the bill into law Wednesday. According to his office, Illinois is the first state in the country to pass comprehensive legislation that includes procedures for police departments that use body cameras.
“Today we are taking steps to strengthen the relationship between our law enforcement officers and the public they protect with the Police and Community Improvement Act,” Rauner said in a statement. “As a society, we must ensure the safety of both the public and law enforcement.”
Rauner said the law establishes new and important guidelines and training for police departments and their officers, while protecting the public by prohibiting officers from using excessive force. “I thank the legislators who sponsored this bill. It will have a lasting and positive impact on the people of Illinois,” he said.
State Sen. Bill Haine, D-Alton, who was a co-sponsor of the bill, said the new law helps guard against false accusations against police officers while protecting the public.
“This legislation requiring the use of police-worn body cameras helps keep law enforcement accountable and provides for greater safety for both officers and citizens,” Haine said. “It creates a better review process of what happens out in the field and allows for greater protections for our courageous police officers.”
The law also increased the cost of traffic tickets to form a pot of money the state can distribute in the form of grants to police departments to purchase the cameras, which normally cost around $400 each. Currently, an additional $10 is tacked onto every $40 traffic ticket and sent to the state. Under the proposed law, that ratio would increase to $15 for every $40.
Even before the bill was signed into law, other local police leaders worried that the new requirements were too burdensome and would dissuade departments from bothering to use a tool they admit they like.
“My opinion has not changed. It’s too cumbersome,” St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said Wednesday.
Watson said with all the strings that came attached to the law, a body camera program would require additional staff to complete all the new chores saddled on departments. He said that because “budgets don’t offer us that luxury,” departments and taxpayers are forced to decide whether they’d rather pay staff to stare at computer screens at headquarters or have officers patrolling the streets.
“Legislators don’t take the time to actually talk to the police and ask ‘If we pass this law, how will you institute it? How much will it cost? How much manpower will you use?’ They just pass it and go onto the next item,” Watson said. “I think the intent behind it is fine but let’s make it easy to apply.”
Collisnville Police Chief Steve Evans, who has previously expressed his desire to use body cameras, said Wednesday, “We’d love to put body cameras on our officers. But this does more to stand in the way than help us do that.”
“I don’t think any of us are going to quit trying to find a way to get body cameras, but this didn’t help,” Evans said.
The new law takes effect Jan. 1.