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The Emerging Trend of Police Body Cameras

Throughout the country many police departments have begun to implement polices regarding police body-worn cameras.  In light of all the tragic police shootings over the last few years, discussion over the pros and cons of police body-worn cameras are becoming more prevalent as states begin to change policy to accommodate the privacy concerns surrounding this new form of technology.   Unlike police vehicle dashboard cameras, body-worn camera footage will record video and audio of individuals in the privacy of their homes as well as in very sensitive situations, such as interviewing sexual assault victims.  Some of the main privacy concerns include, “when officers will be required to activate cameras, how long recording data should be retained, who has access to the footage, who owns the recorded data, and how to handle internal and external requests for disclosure.[1]

One way to combat the issue of when officers should be required to activate cameras is to require them to record every encounter with the public.[2]  Therefore, this would eliminate the need for officers to “determine what type of incident it is before recording” so that a situation does not arise in which the officer should have been recording, but the recording was never made.[3]  In order for officers in Illinois to be able to record both video and audio of every encounter with the public the Illinois eavesdropping law will need to be amended.  As of December 2014 the issue of body-worn cameras was not addressed under the new eavesdropping law, 720 ILCS 5/14-2, therefore, police officers in Illinois are only permitted to record video, but not audio.[4]

[1] Implementing a Body-Worn Camera Program: Recommendations and Lessons Learned, Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS): U.S. Department of Justice, 11 (last visited May 4, 2015).

[2] Id. at 12.

[3] Id.

[4] Fred Hayes: Illinois Police Support body cameras, but tweaks to state law, (Feb. 26, 2015) (last visited May 5, 2015).