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McLean County considers contract for police body cameras ahead of state mandate

Police Body Camera
Ross D. Franklin
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AP
The McLean County Sheriff's Office plans to buy officer body cameras this month, pending County Board approval.

McLean County sheriff's deputies may soon join police departments across the country in wearing body cameras.

Illinois has made the officer cameras mandatory as part of the criminal justice reform bill Gov. JB Pritzker signed last year. Deadlines for compliance were set based on population. The McLean County Sheriff's Office is required to have the cameras in place by January of 2023.

“Overwhelmingly our officers want them,” McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said. “They realize that they protect them just as much as they protect the public.”

Sandage 01
Sandage
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McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage says sheriff's deputies "overwhelmingly" support the use of body cameras.

Sandage said the county had planned to equip officers with the cameras but wanted to take time to find to see which cameras work best.

“We’ve been testing and looking over these things for well over a year,” Sandage said. “We didn’t want to rush right into a purchase, so we really vetted these vendors."

McLean County plans to spend about $328,000 to buy 53 digital cameras through Axon Enterprise Inc., enough to equip each officer with their own camera, according to Sandage.

“We have seen success with Axon digital evidence solutions in other local agencies where other products and services, used by agencies, have revealed certain limitations,” Sandage said in a letter to the McLean County Board's Justice Committee.

A bulk of the cost is included in the first year of a five-year contract. The county would pay $260,000 in year one and then $17,000 in the following four years.

Bloomington and Normal police departments have been using police body cams for several years.

The contract also overs data storage, management and sharing capabilities.

Sandage noted the camera technology has improved since the body cams were first introduced. He said the new cameras have options to automatically turn on when an officer removes their gun or taser from the holster, can activate every other body-worn camera within 30 feet and work better in low-light settings and with longer battery life.

He said officer training will include proper camera placement for the best views, when to turn on the cameras and what videos to save.

The County Board's Justice Committee will consider the request during its monthly meeting on Tuesday. The County Board will have final say in a vote that’s expected to be held on April 14.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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