Acknowledging that body cameras are not a cure-all, members of the Community Relations Commission on Thursday recommended the city pursue acquiring them for the Rockford, Ill., Police Department.
(TNS) — Acknowledging that body cameras are not a cure-all, members of the Community Relations Commission on Thursday recommended the city pursue acquiring them for the Rockford, Ill., Police Department.
The commission found that some cities have seen decreases in excessive force complaints and improved interactions with police following introduction of body-worn cameras.
But commissioners said success is far from guaranteed and depends heavily on how the cameras are used.
"This is not a panacea," Commission Chairman Todd Burton said. "It's not going to solve anything unless we do it right."
Commissioners found that the success of body cameras has varied by city. The most important factor "appears to be the department's rules, policies, and training associated with implementation," the commission wrote in a review provided to Mayor Tom McNamara.
McNamara formed the commission last year to advise the City Council on issues of racial equity, equal opportunity and fair housing.
Activists here have demanded that police be equipped with body cameras, viewing them as a way to deter officers from using excessive force during arrests.
McNamara said he supports their use and issued a request for information from companies that supply the body cameras while asking the commission for a review of how effective they are.
Police Chief Dan O'Shea and the union representing officers believe cameras would show police acting professionally and have expressed support for them as well.
Acquiring cameras could become a question of whether the city can afford them. Officials are considering responses to the city's request for information. Once that information is reviewed, it will be presented to the City Council along with the commission's findings, McNamara said.
The benefits of "transparency" and "accountability" the cameras offer could outweigh the costs of purchasing them and maintaining the electronic infrastructure necessary to support them, McNamara said.
"It's true and undeniable we face major budget deficits due to COVID-19," McNamara said. "But the question really is: Can we afford not to do it? I think we need to prioritize body cameras in our budget as we did dash cams."
The commission's review found body cameras in some cities:
Reduce use of force.
Reduce complaints from the public.
Enhance police accountability, productivity and effectiveness.
In addition, body cameras can raise policing standards and enhance perceptions of the police department, produce evidence for criminal prosecutions, help improve police officer training and identify departmental strengths and weaknesses, the commission's review found.
However, commissioners also acknowledged that some studies have found little or no change in officer behavior, resident behavior or the public perception of police. How effective they are appears dependent on the rules governing them.
They urged the city to adopt "clear policies and procedures on the use of cameras and to provide thorough officer training on how to use the technology."
©2020 Rockford Register Star, Ill. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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