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Chicago Police Body Camera Program a Mixed Bag, Say Civil Rights Groups

A new study ranks how 25 U.S. police departments are using their body-worn camera programs. Credit: DodgertonSkillhause/Morguefile.com
A new study ranks how 25 U.S. police departments are using their body-worn camera programs. Credit: DodgertonSkillhause/Morguefile.com
November 12, 2015

CHICAGO - The Chicago Police Department shouldn't let cops review the footage from their body cameras before they write their incident reports.

That's one of the findings in a new report released this week by a coalition of civil rights groups, called The Leadership Conference.

The report, by the D.C. consulting firm Upturn, scores 25 municipal police departments, including Chicago, on how transparent and fair their policies are and whether they respect people's privacy.

Harlan Yu, principal at Upturn is co-author of the report.

"In order for cameras to live up to their promise, departments must have carefully crafted policies in place to guide the use of these cameras and the footage that they produce," says Yu.

The report notes Chicago PD is doing the right thing by making its body camera policy publicly available online. But improvements could be made by limiting the use of facial-recognition software and by allowing people who file police-misconduct reports to view the footage themselves.

Yu says the policy of letting police officers review their own body-camera footage before they write a report gives them an unfair advantage. He says criminal defendants don't get to check the tape prior to giving a statement.

"Pre-report viewing creates an uneven playing field," says Yu. "And in the worst case, an office could conform his or her report to match only what was shown in the video, rather than report an independent account of what he or she saw."

The Department of Justice awarded the Chicago Police Department a $1 million grant earlier this year for body-camera equipment and training.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL