We are closing in on the first anniversary of Michael Brown’s death and the ensuing riots in Ferguson, Mo. Police body cameras came out of the Ferguson tragedy as a way to provide clarity and protect the public as well as officers.
So along come the lawmakers in Springfield. They took a potentially simple way to keep everyone honest and tacked on violence reporting requirements and side issues until the bill has local police chiefs so dismayed that they’d rather let the cameras sit in their boxes than try to follow the new rules.
The bill is on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk. We’re not convinced he should sign it.
We previously advocated police holding on to video after a Highland Police case was dismissed when the dash cam footage went missing. Body camera video is the same, and must be treated as evidence. The bill expects departments to keep video for 90 days and then indefinitely if it is part of a complaint or investigation. For once, lawmakers provided some funding for a mandate by bumping tickets by $5.
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Regulating the cameras is needed. What we question is adding civil rights and cultural competency classes, officer tracking, crime stat tracking, requiring “stop card” distribution and the host of other requirements that were originally in a separate bill. Lawmakers started out regulating a tool, and wound up adding in a separate bill that tries to legislate the social interactions of police — and likely was added because it wouldn’t survive on its own.
If signed, this bill as written appears to doom body camera use.