The Rockford Police Department took a step toward becoming more transparent to the public on Monday night, as the City Council voted to accept a grant of $200,000 to help outfit more Rockford squad cars with dash cameras.
Currently, just over half a dozen squad cars have dash cams, out of a fleet of more than 100 vehicles.
More than six months after Rockford Police Officer Jaimie Cox was killed during a traffic stop in November, the Winnebago/Boone County Integrity Task Force continues to investigate the deaths of Cox and the man he had pulled over, Eddie Patterson.
Lack of video evidence is preventing quick progress in the investigation, so much so that friends of the Cox family started a fundraising effort on their own soon after his death, in an attempt to place more dash cams in police cars.
Patty Vespa didn’t know how much the cameras would cost at the time, but she wanted to do anything she could to put them in Rockford Police cars.
“I just wanted to do what we could to get them, and I had no idea how much they cost or anything, or what kind they wanted,” Vespa said. “So, we were just working with [the police] to get them what they wanted.”
Between purchasing dash cams, the required licenses and installation, equipping cars with the devices could cost the department around $6,000 per vehicle.
Vespa first sent out a flyer before Christmas encouraging donations.
“We had a lot of people right away,” she said. “A variety of people with small donations, friends and family, people we didn’t know.”
The fundraising movement got a big breakthrough when City Council voted on Monday night to approve a $200,000 grant that would equip the remaining police vehicles with the cameras.
“That’s going to be good for the community,” said Roger Fernandez, a Rockford resident. “Also good for law enforcement and all the citizens of Rockford. That’s going to make it safer.”
Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea said, “It protects the officer. It protects the citizens. It helps us capture crimes. It helps us capture incidents. It also allows us to ensure that officers are always being professional.”
Chief O’Shea says that even though the ordering and installation process can take a couple of months, he hopes to see all his vehicles with dash cams during the summer.