RPD to pilot body camera program

Staff Report

Starting Monday, the Rockford Police Department will begin a body worn camera (BWC) pilot program to test its efficiency in protecting both the safety and welfare of citizens and its officers.

“Recordings from the BWC can provide the Department and the community with an invaluable instrument to assist the department in achieving its goal of police legitimacy through the practice of procedural justice,” Assistant Deputy Police Chief Douglas Pann said in a statement.

Departments across the country have begun implementing similar programs after a wave of police shootings captured by dashboard and body cameras.

The shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by former Chicago Police Department officer Jason Van Dyke prompted a federal investigation into the state’s largest police department following the release of dash cam videos of the incident after more than a year.

The body cam system, Pann says, “gives the citizen a voice, shows neutrality, respect and trustworthiness by providing objective documentation of police interactions with the public.”

The RPD program has been in development since June and will roll out with 13 volunteer officers across various shifts testing the Taser Axon-made camera system for 60 days.

“Use of this technology provides for video and audio documentation of a police officer’s citizen contacts and enforcement and investigative activities from the perspective of the officer’s person,” said Pann.

“The Department has designed policy intended to achieve an appropriate balance between the benefits of BWC devices and civilians’ and officers’ reasonable expectations of privacy.”

Further vendors and camera makes will be trialed following the initial testing period. RPD has not said when they plan on selecting a permanent vendor for their body cams.

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