Highland Park, News

Highland Park becomes one of first small towns to add body cameras to police force

About 18 months before the deadline to do so, the City of Highland Park has deployed its body-worn cameras, according to a Wednesday, Sept. 21 release from the City.

A state law passed in 2021 started a timer for all Illinois police departments to be wearing body cameras. Highland Park was among the group with the most leeway (under 50,000 residents) and had until Jan.1, 2025 to begin the program.

Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said in the release that the City Council prioritized the initiative.

“The implementation of the body-worn camera program demonstrates the City Council’s strong commitment to the City’s core priority of public safety,” she said. “The City’s long-term, strategic financial planning has enabled us to implement this important tool that increases transparency and strengthens public safety in a fiscally responsible manner ahead of the state requirement.”  

The City agreed to pay $760,240 over five years — or $152,048 per year — to lease lead a body-worn camera system from Axon Enterprises, a law-enforcement-focused company that also provides the City with in-squad-car cameras as well as other technologies. Fifty-seven body cameras are part of the package according to city documents (Page 696).

According to the City, staff members have tested the equipment for the past four months. The program was discussed throughout 2021 and passed by the City Council in December 2021 (VIDEO).

“Body-worn cameras represent a significant investment in our department’s ability to continue to build and maintain trust and engagement with our community, one of the department’s core priorities,” Chief of Police Lou Jogmen said in a statement. “In line with the Ten Shared Principles of Public Safety … body-worn cameras will be a vital component of our community policing strategy.

“We are proud of the community-informed process that we underwent over the last two years in exploring, evaluating, and implementing these new tools that will enhance service to our community.”

Illinois law states that the cameras must be turned on when an officer is in uniform and responding or when an officer on duty is engaged in law-enforcement-related activities. Camera recording, however, must be activated by a police officer or set to turn on automatically. Highland Park purchased for its officers the “signal sidearm,” which automatically turns on a body cam’s recording feature when a firearm is pulled.

Community members can request an officer turn off a body camera, but that decision falls on the officer.

Counties and towns with more than 500,000 residents had to have a body-worn camera program up and running at the start of 2022, those with between 100,000 and 500,000 by 2023, and between 50,000-100,000 by the start of 2024.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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