Clickability tracking pixel

Aurora, Ill., to Deploy Police Body Cameras in 2021

City officials began discussing body cameras for the police department in 2019, but budgeting priorities delayed the process. The national conversation about police misconduct is now speeding the $1.4 million technology spend.

by Steve Lord, The Beacon-News / September 4, 2020

(TNS) — Aurora will not have fully integrated body cameras for police officers until the middle of 2021.

That was the word at this week’s Committee of the Whole meeting as members of the City Council discussed the timeline for the body cams for police.

Aurora has retained the help of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, a not-for-profit organization that studies and consults on body cam implementation nationwide, as well as for the federal government, including Homeland Security. Mark Gabriel, a project manager for the lab, told aldermen purchasing and implementing body cams is “a very complex process,” because it involves taking situations from when they happen all the way to adjudication in the court system.

“You are very ahead of the curve,” Gabriel told the council. “You have already done things I saw other police departments stumble with. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how you folks are approaching this.”

The city began looking into the body cams in the middle of 2019, during discussions for the 2020 budget. At that time, city officials decided they would work through 2020 to find the funding for the body cameras and put the purchase in the 2021 budget.

Now, buying the cameras has taken on a higher priority, and city officials have started the process to purchase them. Martin Lyons, Aurora’s chief financial officer, has said the purchase price is estimated at about $1.4 million for the initial purchase and maintenance, and up to $900,000 a year for annual maintenance.

Johns Hopkins provided information to aldermen on the process, but also on the history and past effectiveness of body cameras for police. Ald. Sherman Jenkins, at large, said the information provided by Johns Hopkins shows that body cameras are “very effective on reducing use of force.”

Aurora has already whittled down the number of potential vendors for the body cams from 30 companies to five, and this week sent out requests for proposals to those five companies. The deadline for the request for proposals will be Sept. 21, Lyons said, and the city will assess the vendors through Oct. 5, whittling it down to two final vendors.

At that point, the city will begin pilot programs, trials and testing through the end of October, with an eye toward a vendor recommendation by Nov. 6. While the normal city approval process would take it to final City Council approval on Nov. 24, Lyons said there is a shortcut method the city can use to get pre-approval for both finalists by the council on Nov. 5. It would take two weeks off the normal process, Lyons said.

The city’s timeline has officers using body cameras on a trial basis by the end of the year. But they would not be fully integrated into the city’s computer systems until June 2021, most likely. Lyons said the city would be looking for ways to make full implementation sooner.

Lyons said city staff would give aldermen updates roughly every other week on the body cameras.

In addition to coordinating into the city’s computer system, the city also has to coordinate policies that match the new technology. For instance, the policy must include how police officers treat body cams with victims of domestic violence, victims of sexual assault, incidents involving minor children and use of cameras near remote-detonated devices.

The city also has to look at a policy on video retention and storage, how things will work with Freedom of Information Act requests and how records clerks redact information on videos.

The information to aldermen was contained in 87 pages of a report from Johns Hopkins. But aldermen said it was detailed and clear.

“Now we have something precise to tell our public,” said Ald. Patty Smith, 8th Ward.

©2020 The Beacon-News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Looking for the latest gov tech news as it happens? Subscribe to GT newsletters.

E.REPUBLIC Platforms & Programs