UIPD begins testing out body cameras

University Police have began testing out different models of body cameras that could be used in the future.

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Daily Illini File Photo

A police officer of the University Police Department stands in front of a squad car.

By Lilly Mashayek , Staff Writer

 

The University Police Department has begun testing different models of body cameras to find the best one for their officers to wear in the future.

“We have six officers that we’ve identified two from each shift and they’ll comprise our core group of people who are doing the testing,” said Matt Myrick, deputy chief of operations. “As we get more (cameras) in … we will open to a few more (officers).”

Myrick said the officers are looking at various aspects of the cameras while testing them, such as how they work, what the view from the camera looks like, what the video quality is and if it will hold up in harh conditions.

“They’re told to keep a list of pros and cons for each element,” Myrick said.

Right now UIPD is only focusing on testing out the cameras because the department cannot currently absorb their cost into its budget. Instead of buying the cameras out right, each officer pays a monthly rate to use them.

Myrick said that the packages they have seen range from around $50 to $100 per officer, per month, and they are not yet ready to commit to fully purchasing them.

“Even if we decide (on a camera) you still gotta find the money,” he said.

Besides the price of the cameras themselves, he said there are several other variables that factor into the total cost of getting the body cameras, such as storing the video data and managing it.

Officer Brian Tison has been testing out the cameras since mid-August. The new technology quickly became part of his daily patrol.

The VIEVU LE4 is the first body camera that the officers have been testing out. About 3 inches by 2 inches and weighing 5.5 ounces, the camera can clip onto the front of an officer’s uniform and is legally required to have at least 10 hours of battery life.

In order to start recording, the officer swipes down on a large pad that is on the front of the camera. The video can then be saved to a computer via Wi-Fi.

“I haven’t had a problem remembering to turn it on,” Tison said. “I’m very aware that it’s here.”

Tison said he hasn’t noticed any changes in interactions between himself and civilians while wearing the camera.

Tison said because the camera is attached to his uniform using only a small plastic clip, it is easy for it to get accidentally knocked off. However, he said the video and audio quality of the camera is “fantastic.” He considers it “a great tool.”

Alyssa Komish, senior in LAS, said that she has not seen any University Police wearing the body cameras. Regardless, she feels safer knowing that there is a possibility officers will use them in the future.

“I think it’s really interesting and I think that it’ll go a long way to kind of help promote transparency,” she said. “I think that it might make the community feel a little safer and like they can’t be taken advantage of.”

Tison echoed these statements. The department fully embraces the use of body cameras, he said.

“There’s a misconception that police and police departments don’t want body cameras, but that’s not true,” Tison said.

Myrick said officers volunteered to test the cameras, and that they are ready for them.

“Officers want a record that shows the situation as they were involved in it,” Myrick said.

However, he noted body cameras will not solve all the problems police communities face.

There is no timeline for when they will purchase and start using body cameras, Myrick said. But he has no doubt it will happen eventually.

“We’re excited about moving into this period.” he said. “They’re a tool … but we’re looking forward to implementing them soon.”

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