Police Body Cameras

Police body-worn cameras are the latest tool in our City’s promotion of an honest, transparent, and inclusive government.

Beginning Spring of 2017, the Champaign Police Department will begin its roll-out of body cameras that will help to capture audio and video recordings of daily police – citizen interactions within our community.

Studies have shown that body camera recordings:

  • increase transparency
  • improve both officer and citizen behaviors
  • aid in faster resolution of citizen complaints
  • provide evidence for arrest and prosecution; and
  • provide opportunities to analyze and improve police communication and skills training

The use of body cameras is quickly becoming common practice among law enforcement agencies across the country and is just another example of the Champaign Police Department’s dedication to honest, transparent communications.  We invite you to learn more about CPD’s implementation of body cameras, including its function, limitations, and guidelines around use, privacy, and retention.  See informational video, FAQ, and additional resources below.

Body Camera FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions (click on question to review response) 

A body camera was purchased for every sworn officer within the Department. Uniformed officers will be wearing them as part of their daily uniform. Other non-uniformed officers will also wear them in particular situations such as arrest details, search warrants, and detention stops. A handful of officers tested the cameras for several months, and the first roll-out of body cameras took place on April 4, 2017.  It is expected that every officer will be outfitted by July 1, 2017.
Body cameras will be worn on the upper torso of the officer’s uniform. Each camera comes with three mounting options. The style of uniform worn by the officer will dictate which mounting option is used and how it is placed.
Illinois state law requires officers to record certain situations, such as dispatched calls for service, traffic stops, and subject stops. Officers are encouraged to inform individuals that they are being recorded, and if asked the officer must answer promptly and honestly. By law, an officer is required to inform you that the body camera is on in places where you would have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a bathroom, locker room, private residence, or hospital room. Officers are required to turn off the camera if a victim or a witness to a crime makes such a request, as long as the officer doesn’t have a reasonable suspicion that the person is somehow involved in committing a crime. The identification of any person who is not the officer, a subject to the encounter, or directly involved in the encounter will be redacted from any officially-released video.
Body cameras must be turned off when the victim, witness of a crime, or a citizen requests that he/she not be recorded. If difficult circumstances exist, or if the officer has clear, reasonable suspicion that an individual has, or is in the process of committing a crime, the officer may continue to record that person. In these situations, unless impractical or impossible, the officer must verbally indicate the reason for continuing to record, despite the request.
Body cameras are turned on when the officer is responding to calls for service or engaged in any law enforcement-related encounter. The Champaign Police Department’s body camera system syncs with its in-car camera system and is automatically triggered “on” when an officer is responding to an emergency call for service. An officer may also turn his or her video camera on manually during an encounter.
The only occasions when an officer can turn off his or her body camera is when a victim or witness requests that the camera be turned off. The officer must do so unless there’s reasonable suspicion that the person is somehow involved in the criminal activity. Other times a body camera may be turned off include when an officer is not actively participating in the investigation, or when the police interaction is complete.
It’s important to note that while body cameras will help capture interactions, they won’t always capture everything. The quality of recordings can be effected by technological limitations and environmental factors outside of the officer’s control. For example, an officer’s body camera may be pointing in one direction during an incident while activity occurs outside the view of his or her camera. Other examples include shaky video when an officer is running, or loud noises that make recordings difficult to hear, such as wind, sirens, people yelling, or nearby traffic.
All video recordings are saved on a secure server and saved until the required storage period for the video has expired. Recordings must be retained by the law enforcement agency for a minimum of 90 days. Following the 90-day storage period, Illinois State Law requires that any and all recordings made with an officer-worn body camera must be destroyed, unless any encounter captured on the recording has been flagged. If a recording is flagged, the video must remain on the server for a minimum of 2 years, or longer if needed. A recording may be flagged due to: • an encounter resulting in a detention or an arrest; • a formal or informal complaint is filed as a result of a police encounter; • an officer is the subject of an internal investigation; • an officer discharged his/her firearm or used force during an encounter; • death or great bodily harm occurred to any person; • the video has evidentiary value in a criminal prosecution; • the recording officer personally requests that the video is flagged.
Squad car cameras are still important and complement the use of body cameras. Squad car cameras can provide an overall view of a situation compared to the view of a body camera and could possibly capture events that a body camera could not. The use of both platforms increases the likelihood that incidents are recorded and provide the best documentation of the situation.
The Champaign Police Department is committed to fair and effective law enforcement. We do not excuse any wrong acts by police and value the opportunity to explain our actions, or discover if there has been misconduct by police staff. If you have any questions related to a police response, please contact us at 217-351-4545 and ask to speak with the shift supervisor on duty.  Should you require additional information, or if you wish to file a complaint, please contact our Professional Standards Division at 217-403-6913 or police@champaignil.gov. Formal complaints may be made in person, by mail/email, online, or by telephone. For more information, please visit: www.champaignil.gov/complaintcommendation-form

 

Additional Resources:

  • July 2016 Report to Council: Champaign Police Body Cameras and In-Car Video Purchase:

Council Study Session Report

Council Video (Chapter 2)

  • September 2016 Report to Council: Purchase and Replacement Costs of 35 In-Car Camera Systems, 125 Body Cameras

Council Study Session Report

Council Video (Chapter 9)