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Aurora, Ill., Police Look for Budget Increase to Pay for Tech

The department is looking for an increase in its budget for 2022 to include more money for technology for its newly created real-time data center and to add three more officers to bring the department's total to 310.

(TNS) — The Aurora Police Department is looking for a small increase in its budget for 2022 to include more money for technology for its newly created real-time data center and to add three more officers to bring the department's total to 310.

The police budget proposal for 2022 is $78.89 million, up from 2021′s budget of $78.58 million. Around 93% of the operating budget covers salaries and benefits for police employees, officials said.

During a special City Council Finance Committee meeting last month, Aurora Police Chief Keith Cross said the department is looking to focus in 2022 on leveraging new technology, building trust through transparency and addressing increased issues associated with mental health in the community. He also said they'd like to increase communication with residents through releasing data and utilizing the newly-formed Civilian Review Board.


The department opened up a Critical Incident Intelligence Center in August, a real-time crime data facility that was the brainchild of former Police Chief Kristen Ziman and Deputy Chief Keefe Jackson, who started developing the center in 2018.

"It's proven already to pay big dividends by giving us the ability to react and respond to overall public safety in the community," Cross said. "Our officers get real-time intelligence, so if there is a car accident and there are cameras in the area, we can tell them how bad the accident is, which proper route to come in, which roads need to be closed."

This year, the department also started its body camera program and officers are in the process of final training before all officers begin wearing the cameras in early 2022, Cross said.

In 2022, the department plans to begin using body cameras, new squad car cameras and digital evidence systems to improve transparency and accountability efforts, according to its budget proposal. Funding was already approved for the body cameras and squad car dash cameras through the city's general fund.

New technology purchases proposed mostly focus on equipping the new intelligence center with software. Some proposals include software that recognizes license plates, helping find suspect vehicles and stolen vehicles, for $19,900 in 2022. One subscription allows quick searches for phone records, addresses and real-time arrest information from across the country for $22,500, officials said. Another system would allow police to unlock cell phones and extract data quickly for $24,200.

The police department is also looking at $5,500 to upgrade its video production technology to expand the creation and distribution of videos to help better connect with the community, Aurora police spokesman Paris Lewbel said.


Recruiting more diverse members to the force has been a top goal for Cross, so the department is asking for a $30,000 increase in its recruitment budget. As he talks to other police chiefs nationwide, Cross said it is difficult right now to attract people into the profession, and Aurora has to compete with other agencies to snag those who are interested.

"Recruiting was kind of an afterthought to us because before everyone wanted to come to Aurora, but now we have to put a lot more resources into that," Cross said.

A new recruiting team was formed in the beginning of 2020 and they have attended events at high schools and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, along with recruiting at the Chicago Premium Outlets mall in Aurora during the last few months. The budget increase would cover overtime costs for attending recruitment events and advertising.


Cross is also requesting to add three officers to the 2022 budget, bringing the department's sworn officer count to 310. The officers could be used to help expand the Crisis Intervention Team, which currently has two officers. The team helps to de-escalate situations, assess individuals in crisis and get them to the appropriate care and services needed to keep them out of the criminal justice system, police officials said.

The budget also includes a request for $440,000 for new police officers to attend the police academy after the state discontinued paying for the training, Cross said.

The proposed amount sought for personnel also includes money for signing bonuses to lure experienced officers from other departments.

The police department is also looking to increase its overall training budget by 5%, bringing the total to $100,000 for 2022.

© 2021 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.