Plan Would Give Police Cameras, Raise Fines
The question of just what happened in Ferguson, Missouri before the shooting death of Michael Brown has renewed a push in Illinois to equip police with cameras.
Body and dashboard cameras for police isn't a new idea; President of the Illinois's NAACP chapter, George Mitchell, says his organization has been supportive of the concept as far back as 2001.
But he says Ferguson shows why. Mitchell says had the Brown incident been on tape, much of the controversy could have been avoided.
"The whole community benefits, and it helps to restore confidence and trust in peace officers; and we all need to have confidence and trust in peace officers," he says.
The state's organization for state's attorneys supports it too, as do a variety of law enforcement groups.
Mike Schlosser, the director of the state's Police Training Institute, which is connected to the University of Illinois, says law enforcement is one of the most noble, and honorable professions in the country; he says officers risk their lives for strangers every day.
"However, many times officers get falsely accused of abuse of authority and use of excessive force," he says.
He says it can work the other way too; "bad apples" who do use excessive force deserve to be punished.
Schlosser says cameras in squad cars and worn on the body will help the good guys, and make sure the bad ones are held accountable.
The money to buy all of that equipment has to come from somewhere though, and many local police departments are cash strapped, as is the state.
Legislation proposes paying for it by increasing the fines by $5 or $6 for everything from criminal to traffic offenses.
The public reintroduction of the plan, which is sponsored by Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, comes days after a different camera initiative announced by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, also a Democrat. Madigan wants families of nursing home residents to be able to install cameras in their rooms. Though it has gotten tentative backing from some of the industry, it also raises privacy concerns -- particularly for elderly individuals with dementia or who otherwise may not consent to being recorded 24/7.