Police body-worn cameras can play an important role in improving police-civilian interactions. We believe that police body-worn cameras can be tools for better police supervision and civilian oversight only with clear policy guidelines, sufficient data collection and public transparency.
As part of our Police Accountability Reform Platform, we have been advocating for the Illinois General Assembly to pass guidelines for police body-worn camera programs that include: (1) Requirements for cameras to be on during on all civilian interactions and clear consequences if an officer is accused of misconduct and fails to record the incident; (2) disclosure of videos to individuals and their counsel who are recorded by police officers and disclosure of “flagged” recordings (involving use of force, arrest, detention or complaint) to the public on request; (3) data collection and reports to the public on the use of body-worn cameras.
On May 30, 2015, the General Assembly took the first step in implementing major police reforms by passing the police reform omnibus bill. Among other significant reforms, SB 1304 addresses our priorities for creating statewide policy guidelines for police body-worn cameras.
Through this legislation, Illinois becomes the first state in the nation to create policy guidelines for police body-worn cameras. This creates a single state standard, instead of a patchwork of policies that could vary between communities. While the use of body cameras is not mandated, any law enforcement agency in Illinois which employs police body-worn cameras is subject to the following minimum guidelines.
- Cameras turned on while on duty
- Circumstances when cameras can be turned off
- Notification of recording
- Recording retention
- Flagged recordings
- Disclosure of recordings
- Police discipline
- Citizen right to record police
- Law Enforcement Camera Grant Fund
Cameras turned on while on duty
Cameras must be on at all times when the officer is in uniform, responding to calls for service, or engaged in any law enforcement-related encounter or activity that occurs while the officer is on-duty.
Circumstances when cameras can be turned off
There are many exceptions, including “exigent circumstances,” when the cameras can be turned off. Body cameras may also be turned off when: a victim of a crime, witness of crime, or community member who wishes to report a crime requests that the camera be turned off; the officer is inside of a patrol car equipped with a functioning in-car camera; the officer is interacting with a confidential informant; or the officer is engaged in “community caretaking” functions, such as participating in town halls, helping a child find their parents, providing death notifications, and performing well-being checks on the sick or elderly.
Notification of recording
Officers can record without permission, but must provide notice of recording if the person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. The proof of notice must be evident in the recording.
Recordings made on police body-worn cameras must be retained for 90 days. After 90 days, recordings must be destroyed, unless an encounter has been “flagged” or a supervisor at the law enforcement agency designates the recording for training purposes. Flagged recordings must be retained for 2 years, unless the recording is used in a criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding and therefore can be destroyed only upon a final disposition and order from the court. Access to recordings is restricted to personnel responsible for redacting, labeling, or duplicating recordings.
An encounter will be “flagged” when: a complaint has been filed; the officer discharged his or her firearm or used force; death or great bodily harm occurred to any person; the encounter resulted in a detention or an arrest, excluding minor traffic stops; the officer is the subject of an internal investigation or otherwise being investigated for possible misconduct; the supervisor of the officer, prosecutor, defendant, or court determines that the encounter has evidentiary value in a criminal prosecution; or the recording officer requests that the video be flagged for official purposes related to his or her official duties.
All recordings will be disclosed, upon request, to any victim or witness who appears in the captured video. The recording shall be disclosed to the person recorded or his or her legal representative. Recordings flagged, due to the filing of a complaint, discharge of firearm, use of force, arrest or detention, or resulting death or bodily harm, will be disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act upon a written request. Any recording disclosed shall be redacted to remove identification of any person that appears on the recording and is not the officer, a subject of the encounter, or directly involved in the encounter.
Recordings can be used to discipline law enforcement officers if: a formal or informal complaint of misconduct has been made; a use of force incident occurred; the encounter on the recording could result in a formal investigation; or as corroboration of other evidence of misconduct. If a recording was intentionally not captured, or was intentionally destroyed, altered, or intermittently captured in violation of the Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act, then this violation should be considered in weighing the evidence.
Citizen right to record police
No officer may hinder or prohibit any person from recording a law enforcement officer in the performance of his or her duties in a public place or in circumstances where the officer has no reasonable expectation of privacy. The written policy should indicate the potential criminal penalties, as well as any departmental discipline which may result from unlawful confiscation or destruction of the recording medium of a person who is not a law enforcement officer.
Any law enforcement agency using police body-worn cameras must provide an annual report to the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board by May 1 of each year. The report shall include: a brief overview of the makeup of the agency, including the number of officers utilizing police body-worn cameras; the number of police body-worn cameras utilized by the law enforcement agency; any technical issues with the equipment and how those issues were remedied; a brief description of the review process used by supervisors within the law enforcement agency. For each recording used in prosecutions, it should also include the time, date, location, and precinct of the incident, the offenses charged and the date charges were filed. The Board must analyze the law enforcement agency reports and provide an annual report to the General Assembly and the Governor by July 30 of each year.
Law Enforcement Camera Grant Fund
Grants can be made to units of local government in Illinois to purchase police body-worn cameras and associated technology, in-car video cameras for use in law enforcement vehicles, and training for officers in the operation of cameras. Fines will increase by $5 for a guilty plea to a criminal, pedestrian or traffic offense, except relating to parking and registration. The Law Enforcement Camera Grant Fund will receive $3 from the increase and the remaining $2 will go towards police training.