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Oswego, Kendall Police Considering Body Cameras for Officers

Jun 30, 2015 08:36PM ● Published by Steven Jack

Stock photography courtesy of Wolfram Technologies

Officers and deputies from the Oswego Police Department and the Kendall County Sheriff’s Office could soon be wearing body cameras. 

Both Oswego Police Chief Jeff Burgner and Sheriff Dwight Baird said recently their departments are considering pilot programs that would outfit select officers initially and perhaps many more if the initiatives prove successful and useful. The move comes amid calls from President Barack Obama in recent months to equip 50,000 police officers with the technology by 2017 and eventually all of the nation’s 630,000 police officers. 

Standing in the way of local programs will be current Illinois law that allows police to only record video and not audio of citizen encounters. A change in Illinois’ complex eavesdropping law has been proposed that will make it legal for police to record both audio and video, and may be approved in Springfield soon. The change is supported by the Illinois Chiefs of Police, which has called body cameras a “win-win for citizens and law enforcement officers” 

Another road block with local programs will be funding. Both Burgner and Baird said equipping all on-the-street officers would cost their departments tens of thousands of dollars that are currently unbudgeted. Each camera costs up to $1,000 on top of much more funding needed to store the data captured.

Burgner said despite the associated costs, he feels body cameras for Oswego Police officers would eventually benefit the department. 

“For me this is mostly about being progressive and transparent. I think the cameras also have the possibility of helping reduce the number of complaints that we get about our interactions with the public that aren’t necessarily completely accurate,” Burgner said. “We investigate all citizen complaints, and this will certainly be a piece of the puzzle in those investigations.”

Burgner did caution, however, that body cameras come with limitations. 

“They can only capture so much,” he said. “They are not the end all be all.”

Oswego has a history of being on the forefront of technology in law enforcement. Former Oswego Chief Baird said the department was the first in Kendall County to install video cameras in squad cars back in 1994. 

“Back then we were using VHS tapes in the squad cars,” Baird said. “That’s how far things have come since those days.”

As for the latest technology Baird said he’s yet to decide if body cameras are good for law enforcement.

“I’m neutral on it right now,” he said. “That’s why we’ll probably start out with a pilot program and see where it goes from there.”

Baird said he plans to request funding in next year’s budget to get started, while Burgner likely will he seek out federal grants to help pay for the village’s pilot program. 

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