Small stateline police departments worry about cost of body cameras required by new Illinois police reforms

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WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WTVO) ─ A controversial police reform bill recently approved by the Illinois General Assembly has become a reason for concern for some stateline police departments.

The bill requires all police officers across the state to wear body cameras on the job by 2025.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is expected to sign the bill into law.

Pecatonica Police Chief Robert Smith said the move would create financial headaches for smaller departments.

“Cost has always been a barrier to implementation of body cameras,” said Chief Smith.

“This mandate that’s coming, the larger departments obviously have the ability to get those RFPs [request for proposals] out, find the vendor they want, and start demoing, and they can move quicker than a department my size, or a Pecatonica, or a Winnebago. We’re strapped,” added Durand Police Chief Jeff Schelling.

Chief Smith said although the cameras themselves are expensive, the initial cost is not the biggest concern.

“It’s the technology for cataloging and storing down the video and the software that’s needed to do that,” said Chief Smith.

Chief Schelling said departments might even need extra manpower to effectively implement body cameras.

“You have to have someone looking at the video every day. Being able to redact information, react to FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests in a timely manner,” Chief Schelling said. “Do we have someone hired to do that? Can we afford to have someone hired to do that?”

Both Chief Smith and Chief Schelling said they do not know what they will do if the legislation is signed, like expected.

“If we were able to afford it today, they would put body cameras on tonight,” said Chief Schelling. “We want to be on that platform as soon as possible, but, again, we’re strapped with how are we going to do this.”

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