Woodstock police officers will be outfitted with body cameras in a move city officials said is aimed at ensuring accountability from police and members of the public alike.
Each of the Woodstock Police Department’s patrol officers will be issued body-worn cameras in the coming months after the City Council unanimously approved their purchase Oct. 18. Twenty-eight cameras, a 16-bay kiosk and software will cost the city about $32,000, with $9,600 of that expense being offset by a grant from ComEd and the Metropolitan Mayor’s Caucus.
Police Chief John Lieb said the department expects to receive the cameras in November and begin what he termed a “soft opening” period in which officers will be trained as to how to use them while on patrol. The cameras officially will be put into service in early 2017.
The department’s squad cars already are outfitted with cameras on their dashboards, but Woodstock police will need to learn when and how to use the new body-worn cameras, which do not automatically store video but which will retain 30 seconds of footage prior to being activated by an officer.
“All the systems offer pre-record,” said City Manager Roscoe Stelford. “So as long as there’s power going to the camera, it was recording even though the officer wasn’t telling it yet to record. If something occurred and then he turned it on, it still has 30 seconds of footage recorded.”
Reliable mechanisms for automatically activating the cameras — when, for instance, a police officer unholsters a gun — don’t yet exist, Stelford said, and so officers will need to manually switch them to record.
Officers also will need to announce when they are recording.
When they know cameras are rolling, “there could be some change in public responses … maybe for the better,” Councilman Mark Saladin said.
The WPD is working with the Harvard Police Department, which already has body cameras for its police, to learn from them how best to implement the program, Lieb said.
Councilman Mike Turner, acting as mayor pro-tem in Mayor Brian Sager’s absence, said he was encouraged by the camera program but wanted the council to be aware of any problems that could arise from its implementation.
“If there’s issues or concerns you have, I would like them brought to us,” Turner told Lieb. “… I don’t fear this development. I actually welcome it, but I think we want to do it our way, the right way, and trust your judgment.”
Minooka-based Battery Jack Inc. was awarded the contract.