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Homewood police using new body, in-car camera system

Police in Homewood began using a new body and in-car camera system in March.
 
Chief Bill Alcott and Deputy Chief Denise McGrath made a presentation on the new equipment to the village board at its April 23 meeting.
 
“The biggest thing is that it will provide and improve the transparency and accountability (of the department) while strengthening public trust,” Alcott said. “There’s a question about law enforcement today. If we have videos out there, we can show them our interaction with them. It’ll solve some disputes.”
 
Alcott stressed, though, that video isn’t always definitive. The new cameras will sync with in-car cameras and those of other officers, but not every angle can be caught and malfunctions do happen, he said. 
 
The 11 in-car cameras, 21 body cams and 21 Tasers were purchased from Axon in August for $264,109.89. That includes a five-year contract for cloud memory storage and equipment for operation and installation, as well as any necessary upgrades or upkeep.
 
In-car cameras are activated when the lights turn on or when an officer turns on his or her camera within 30 feet of the car. The system is also activated when a Taser is turned on.
 
McGrath said Axon is working on a universal holster design so that the cameras are activated when guns are drawn.
 
The cameras were paid for with federal asset forfeiture funds, which is available because a Homewood officer was assigned to a federal task force four years ago. 
 
Homewood officers started training with the cameras in November. In-car units were installed in February. Full implementation began on March 5. 
 
“Officers have been extremely supportive of this project,” McGrath said. “I have had no complaints or no resistance from anybody towards this.” 
 
Footage from the cameras is stored in an online memory bank that can be immediately sent to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. In the past, the department needed to copy footage onto CDs.
 
“It takes a lot of manpower to do that,” Alcott said. “This new system collects it. It’s sent to the cloud. And we can automatically give rights to certain people that have the video that we’re asked for with redactions.”
 
The redaction system is streamlined, too, Alcott said. A face, license plate or vehicle can be redacted from a video with a single click. Reviewing the tapes also makes training easier, Alcott said. 
 
Officers wore body cameras during a trial period last July. The feedback from both officers and the public was positive.
 
“We weren’t in a hurry to go to body cameras but the technology’s come so far that we had no choice but to do the right thing,” Alcott said. 
 

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