Answering calls to equip police officers with body cameras after a series of officer-involved deaths across the country, Illinois lawmakers are pushing a plan to add a $5 fee onto traffic tickets to pay for the equipment while also setting statewide standards for how the cameras and the videos they capture could be used.
The measure, which cleared the Illinois House on Thursday, would expand police officer training to include topics like use of force. It would require an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths and would make investigation reports part of the public record if an officer involved in a death is not charged with a crime.
Additionally, it would ban the use of choke-holds and create a database of officers who have been fired or resigned due to misconduct.
The legislation comes after a series of officer-involved deaths generated momentum around efforts to change the way police interact with the communities they serve. President Barack Obama recently formed a task force to study the issue, and its conclusions served as a blueprint for the Illinois bill, the sponsors said.
“What we are doing here is we are taking a proactive step … to ensure that things that are happening around the country do not happen within the borders of Illinois,” said sponsoring Rep. Elgie Sims, D-Chicago.
If enacted, Illinois would be the first state in the country to set statewide standards for the use of body cameras, Sims said. A similar effort is underway in California, but it has run into opposition from police and the state’s top attorney, who argue that individual departments should be left to develop standards on
The bill would not require police departments to use body cameras. But those that do so would have to follow state rules, including a requirement that officers keep their cameras on when conducting law enforcement activities. Officers would be allowed to turn the camera off when talking to a confidential informant, or at the request of a victim or witness.
Recordings generally would not be subject to the state’s open records law, unless they contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, the discharge of a weapon or a death. Recordings would not be used to catch police committing minor infractions.
Rep. John Anthony, R-Plainfield, touted the Illinois bill as a compromise that incorporated input from law enforcement.
“You have to be cautious and careful with police reforms, and I think we did that with this bill,” Anthony said.
The bill must still pass the Senate and would then need Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature, but it cleared the House on a nearly unanimous vote, showing there is wide support among Democrats and Republicans.
Source: Chicago Tribune