With the push of a button, Assistant Deputy Chief Doug Pann activates one of Rockford’s 13 brand new body cameras.
After legislation was passed last June, allowing departments in Illinois to use the cameras, Rockford has now jumped on board, under a 60 day pilot program, though the company Taser. It’s one of three companies Rockford plans on looking at to decide whether or not to go to full force, with about 170 cameras.
“When we saw the opportunity, and we know that vendors will provide the equipment and the data storage on a temporary basis for evaluating, then we want to take advantage of that,” Chief Pann said.
There has been a push, nationally, to get officers equipped with cameras after several recent police-involved shootings. While it hasn’t been a big issue here in Rockford, there have been incidents in the past, like the officer involved shooting of Mark Barmore in 2009, an incident that has led to civil suits against the department. Chief Pann says that the body cameras will be a great tool to show what the officers encounter in those situations, but knows they won’t always show everything.
“We would anticipate that it’s going to be a very valuable tool, and a valuable piece of evidence, when we’re looking at a criminal case or a civil case against the department. However, it’s not the final (word). It’s not going to be the final factor.”
Still, Pann believes that this is a direction the community expects the department to go toward — and it will help with their relationships with community members.
“We want to do everything we can to build that level of trust and we just think that this is another tool to do that,” he says.
After this 60 day pilot program concludes, Chief Pann says they will test similar cameras from two other companies, and will then go to council to ask for the money for full deployment.