CHICAGO — Chicago police announced Sunday that they will expand the use of body cameras to include all officers on patrol by 2018.
Numbers of body cameras will increase by several thousand within the next two years so that every officer on patrol has access to the wallet-size cameras, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.
“This expansion is a win-win for the public and for officers,” he said, adding that their use should improve accountability and help build community trust.
The department launched its body-cam pilot program in 2015 and it currently includes seven of 22 city police districts. Expanding it to the other districts will cost around $8 million, money that will come from the department’s operating budget and from grants.
Several disputed shootings and subsequent protests over the past year increased pressure on the department to find ways to make police more accountable, including by recording more officer interactions with the public.
Some activists expressed concern that officers won’t properly use the cameras, limiting their benefits. At least one officer’s body camera didn’t appear to be recording during the fatal July shooting of 18-year-old Paul O’Neal, raising questions about whether officers can switch them off intentionally.
Johnson told reporters Sunday that the department is developing policies on the use of the cameras, which are turned on and off manually, saying the general rule is that officers activate them “when they come into contact with the public.”
“We are trying to get it right,” he said. “(Officers) still deserve some amount of privacy during their day-to-day tasks.”
He said it takes some time to become acclimatized to using the equipment.
“Since becoming superintendent, I’ve worn a body camera when I go out on patrol — and I’m still kind of goofing up at times,” he said. “It’s not really complicated, but you have to become familiar with it.”