East Dundee Police To End Body Cam Program Before It Even Began

EAST DUNDEE, IL — East Dundee will shelve its police body camera program just one year into a five-year contract.

The village paid $21,210 for the first year but the devices have not even been taken out of their boxes, interim Police Chief George Carpenter told the East Dundee Village Board Monday night. To continue the program would cost the village $18,660 a year for the next four years, Carpenter said.

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“The contract we signed took effect over a year ago and we’ve still not implemented the body camera program for reasons I really can’t discuss because I wasn’t here. Nevertheless, we still owe $18,000 each year for the storage of images,” he said.

Carpenter became the interim chief at the end of last month, replacing chief Terry Mee, who retired in early January. He is the former chief of the Wilmette Police Department.

In 2017, East Dundee signed a five-year contract with the Arizona-based Taser International, now called Axon, for body cam video storage and camera management. The contract can be canceled, letting the village off the hook on the annual fee but allowing them to keep the cameras, Carpenter said.

In a memo to trustees, Carpenter said the annual costs for the program are high because the devices capture more video than police dash camera systems, requiring more storage. Another disadvantage, he said, is the extra staff time that would be needed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests from attorneys.

“We receive many FOI requests for dash cam videos and body cams would result in many more,” he said. “We can resume or sign a new (contract) in the future when funds become available.”

Some trustees questioned why the program was not implemented.

“Why didn’t we use the body cameras if we had them for a year?” Trustee Kirstin Wood asked.

Carpenter said he wasn’t sure.

“The last thing I want to do is undo what I think was a visionary project of the former chief and I’ve met with him to discuss this specifically,” he said.

Trustees agreed with the recommendation.

“I think it’s a great technology but I would have to defer to the chief on whether or not it’s something we’d have to have,” Trustee Jeff Lynam said.

Carpenter said he is a supporter of body camera programs and called them beneficial in addressing public concerns, such as biased policing.

“I can’t answer the question of what problem we’re solving here in East Dundee. You know that better than I do, of course,” he said. “And it’s not to say the original choice to purchase the body cameras was not a good choice. I think there was a real vision involved here. But financially it doesn’t seem prudent at this time.”

The Elgin Police Department began using body cameras in May 2017. In West Dundee, police officials are testing the devices with the possibility of seeking permission to buy them by the end of the year, Police Chief Andrew Wieteska said.

East Dundee Village President Lael Miller said he would like to bring the program back at some point.

“I do believe it makes sense both for the safety of the residents and the officers,” he said.

From The Chicago Tribune