Rockford Police hope body cameras will help rebuild community trust

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — A Rockford City Council committee approves a contract for Rockford Police to get body-worn cameras.

The agreement is with the same company that makes the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department’s body cams.

The deal would not only provide 320 body cameras for Rockford officers, but would also replace 120 in-car cameras. Department leaders say it could go a long way towards repairing community trust.

“We hope this does take a step in the right direction in building a little more trust with the community, so everyone can see what’s out there,” said Rockford Deputy Chief Kurt Whisenand.

“We started this a little over 8 months ago- we thought it would be much shorter, but as things go with a bid and contract this big over five years, it did take some time,” said Deputy Chief Whisenand.

City leaders first started the process of outfitting officers with body cameras last August, after holding listening sessions where residents could share their thoughts on policing in the Forest City.

“We did hear a lot from the community about the transparency, and the body cameras documenting what’s going on, the interaction between the officers and the citizens. And we’re all on-board 100% with that,” said Deputy Chief Whisenand.

Axon was one of the most expensive of 9 bids the city reviewed for the cameras. Winnebago County Sheriff’s deputies have been using the company’s technology since June 2020 and have been happy with the early returns.

“One of the key aspects of the Axon body camera, and all body cameras for that matter, is the integrity of the video. Once the video is recorded, there’s no way for an officer, a corrections officer, a supervisor, anybody at the sheriff’s office or in any police department to alter that video,” said Winnebago County Chief Deputy Rick Ciganek.

Whisenand says the cameras will provide an unbiased perspective on all interactions between officers and residents.

“Obviously, we hope most of those are positive, but sometimes things happen, and we’ll have the body camera footage to review at least,” added Whisenand.

The agreement still needs to be approved by the full city council. They will vote on it next Monday. Whisenand says officers would then need several months of training on how to use the cameras before you would see them on city streets.

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