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Normal Mayor Koos is unsure if he'll back license plate reading cameras

Chris Koos at a city council meeting
Emily Bollinger
Normal Mayor Chris Koos said he has concerns about privacy protections that he will discuss with the police chief before he votes July 18 on a plan to buy license plate reading cameras.

Town of Normal Mayor Chris Koos said he has privacy concerns about the license-plate reading cameras the town's police department wants to buy — and he's undecided on how he will vote when the town council considers the plan later this month.

Koos said in an interview on WGLT’s Sound Ideas that he wants to find out how the camera company, Flock Safety, will manage the data and whether the police department needs it.

“Trying to better understand for myself, what’s the ultimate gain out of this process? I mean, I’m struggling between is it nice to have or really important to have.”

Normal Police Chief Steve Petrilli has said the cameras will help solve crime by finding stolen vehicles. Bloomington approved the cameras for its police department earlier this year.

Koos said he had not yet talked to Petrilli about the cameras, but said he intends to do so. Koos was out of town for the June 20 meeting when Petrilli and a representative from Flock Safety gave a presentation to the council.

Normal PD distributed a copy of the town's policy on license-plate reading cameras to the media on July 1.

It says the cameras will not be used for “traffic enforcement, fines, towing or immigration enforcement.” It states department staff who violate its policy would face disciplinary action.

The procedures of the Normal Police Department will ensure the proper use of ALPR (automatic license plate reader) systems for the protection of the people and property of the Town of Normal, while maintaining the highest respect for the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of those whose data is collected by the system,” states the policy.

The policy also states the department would install cameras at “high-density violent crime areas, intersections with a high number of crashes and common entrance and (exit) locations for the Town of Normal.”

Koos added he’s not sure whether there are enough votes on the council to pass the proposal.

A vote is expected July 18.

Unit 5 taxes

As Unit 5 weighs public feedback on how to address a growing budget deficit of about $11 million, Koos said the town is watching.

The Normal-based school district is exploring whether it should seek a ballot question to raise property taxes to better fund schools.

Koos said if the school system raises its tax rate, that puts pressure on the town to keep its tax rates in line. He said the town still strives to avoid raising taxes, but said that may not practically be possible.

“When we make taxing decisions in the town, we look at the overall effect on the community. Not just what we do. But we have certain obligations for theTown of Normal,” Koos said. “All of our property tax dollars go to support police and fire pensions. All of it.”

Koos said the town legally can't advocate for Unit 5 to seek a ballot referendum, adding healthy schools are a vital part of any community.

Council format shift

A petition drive to change the Normal Town Council to a district format won't get the mayor's support.

The campaign seeks a referendum to ask voters to divide the town into districts. Each council member would represent a certain district, rather than the town at large.

Supporters said the town should have representatives from each part of the community to better understand each district's needs.

Koos said the district format is a “solution in search of a problem.”

“They’re getting that representation now. Again, we’re not that large of a community," Koos said. "We’re seven minutes from edge-to-edge if you’re in your automobile.”

Koos added he’s also concerned that in a district format, some council members may concern themselves only with residents in their district without considering the needs of the entire community.

The petition drive needs about 1,000 signatures before it would go to the voters.

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