Body camera problems? McLean County police agencies explain tech issues Local News

BLOOMINGTON — A recently released report from the Illinois Law Enforcement and Training Standards Board identified multiple issues Bloomington, Normal and Illinois State University police departments have experienced since implementing body-worn cameras.

However, the departments largely attribute any technical issues to human error or to battery issues when their body camera programs were first rolled out.

Under the Illinois Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act, all Illinois law enforcement agencies must implement a body camera program no later than Jan. 1, 2025. A state report on 2021 body camera use was released on July 29. A total of 106 law enforcement agencies submitted data, up from 89 departments last year.

The McLean County Sheriff’s Office did not provide data; It has purchased the cameras and is in the process of implementing their use.

Normal Police Department

In the state report, the most challenging issues were noted by the Normal Police Department, which uses 82 body cameras.

“Many times the body worn cameras must be sent in for repairs; as such, the department will be purchasing all new body worn cameras in 2022,” Normal police noted.

Speaking last week, NPD Technologies Officer Jason Wood said his department first piloted cameras in 2016 for an 18-month period.

In 2018, the department bought 70 Panasonic cameras to equip its officers. Although they worked well, Wood said state law established new parameters for body cameras that the department was not equipped for.

One of the first issues as a result of the new statute was battery life. Wood said the first cameras NPD used had a built-in battery, but instead of buying new cameras, the department was able to get by with reusable batteries.

“The major technical issues we had were all eventually resolved by the manufacturer via updates and configurations,” Wood said.

After three years, the cameras were still operational at this point, but Wood said the warranties were up so any significant repairs would have to come out of pocket.

The Normal City Council accepted a resolution in May to waive the formal bid process for the purchase of replacement Panasonic body cameras for about $105,000.

Wood said the department is in the middle of swapping out each officer’s cameras. As of Thursday, Wood said, there are probably 15 to 20 more cameras to implement.

As part of the review process, Normal Police Department supervisors randomly review five videos each month from their respective shifts, according to the 2021 report. A minimum of two command ranks also review all reports and accompanying body worn camera footage.

Illinois State University Police

Body cameras were deployed for the Illinois State University Police Department in August 2021.

Illinois State University Police Chief Aaron Woodruff said body cameras were fully rolled out in his department last year and have been pretty durable.

However, some of the technical issues identified in the report included officers failing to activate cameras, low battery life and cameras not docking correctly.



Woodruff


“Human error is always going to be a factor in these things,” Woodruff said.

Woodruff added that his department did have to purchase additional batteries for officers working longer shifts or monitoring football games. But with the support of an excellent IT staff at ISU, Woodruff added that there have not been any other issues.

“They really have done what they’re supposed to,” Woodruff said.

Illinois State University Police Department officers review their recordings and use them as a resource when preparing written reports, according to the report. 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.

Bloomington Police Department

Although the report cited issues involving data integration and uploading within the Bloomington Police department, public information officer Brandt Parsley said there haven’t been any significant issues in the last four years.

Once a camera is turned off and the officer returns to their car, Parsley said a wireless router will upload the video. If this cannot be done on-site, data can be uploaded at the police station. However, delays may occur when evidence is requested from citizens.

According to the report, Bloomington Police Department supervisors review footage on an as-needed basis, including calls for service, complaints, or other relevant issues. Supervisors also review a minimum of two random videos per officer per month.

McLean County Sheriff’s Office

The McLean County Board voted in April to spend nearly $328,000 for 53 body cameras from Axon Enterprise, Inc. on a five-year contract.

Support Services Commander Matt Lane said the cameras have been purchased, but the office has not fully implemented their use.



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Lane


Before the cameras can be assigned to each deputy, Lane said the department must draft a policy guiding their use, and the policy must be approved by the sheriff.

He did not provide a firm date on when the cameras would be fully implemented but said the office may follow a phased-in approach.

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