Former Illinois Lawmaker Encourages Body Cameras for Law Enforcement

body cameras, law enforcement, Illinois Criminal Defense AttorneyThe cycle of tragedy seems like it will never end. Once again, news programs last week were engulfed by yet another incident involving the death of a citizen related to the actions of a police officer. Just as parts of the country were beginning to move forward following last year’s high-profile incidents in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York, a new story out North Charleston, South Carolina, captured national attention. The latest police shooting, which resulted in a citizen’s death and murder charges being brought against the officer, also reignited the debate over the need for body cameras to be worn by law enforcement officers.

While the investigation into the shooting continues, many have weighed in on the topic of body cameras and the level of accountability they may provide for both police officers and regular citizens. Jim Nowlan, former Illinois state representative and state agency director, offered his opinion in an article this weekend that ran in a number of Illinois newspapers.

Nowlan pointed to the progress made by the incorporation of dash cameras and audio transmitters by many police departments in the last decade and a half. Retired Galesburg Police Chief John Schlaf agreed. Dashboard cameras, Shclaf observed, have caught citizens assaulting officers, fighting with them, and destroying traffic tickets which they later denied receiving. “On the other hand,” he said, “the cameras have also captured excessive use of force by officers. Overall, the dash cams have been a positive thing for police.”

Body cameras, in their limited application so far, seem to be proving their worth. The most commonly cited example can be found in Rialto, California, a Los Angeles suburb with a population of about 100,000. The required use of body cameras in 2013 led to a 60 percent reduction in the use of force by officers, and nearly a 90 percent reduction in complaints against police.

A similar, yet less quantifiable, change seems to be taking place in the small Illinois town of Hampton, which implemented body cameras recently. Hampton Police Chief Terry Engle said, “The fact we are wearing them leads to de-escalation of aggressiveness. Everybody is on his best behavior.

While cost is certainly a consideration, Nowlan believes that, ultimately, body cameras represent the next step in reducing violence in both directions between police officers and citizens. “Everybody behaves better when they know they are on camera,” Nowlan wrote. “It is as simple as that.”

If you have been charged with a crime, the details of your arrest may be vital in building an effective defense. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel LLC, Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney, our skilled team understands that and is prepared to help you throughout every step of your proceedings. Contact a qualified criminal defense attorney in Chicago today, and put our experience to work for you.

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