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Sycamore City Council approves $57K police body cams purchase

DeKalb Police Commander Craig Woodruff holds one type of body-worn camera in May that the DeKalb Police Department was looking at for a pilot body camera program that was approved for the fiscal 2020 city budget.
DeKalb Police Commander Craig Woodruff holds one type of body-worn camera in May that the DeKalb Police Department was looking at for a pilot body camera program that was approved for the fiscal 2020 city budget.

SYCAMORE – Sycamore police will soon join other area law enforcement agencies in outfitting its officers with body-worn cameras.

The Sycamore City Council voted, 7-0, during their Oct. 19 meeting to approve buying police body-worn cameras for $57,530 for the first five years with Texas-based company WatchGuard. Ward 4 Alderman Rick "Spider" Kramer was absent from the meeting.

Sycamore City Manager Brian Gregory said that body-worn cameras have become an essential tool for modern policing. He said, per conversations with and among police officials, police officers are in favor of being outfitted with the cameras.

“It’s important when you have good police officers doing good work, as we have, that body cameras would confirm what they’re doing on a day to day basis," Gregory said.

The update comes after the DeKalb County Board approved the purchase for the cameras earlier this year, as did the city of DeKalb, though the latter is pending final approval of the fiscal 2021 budget.

DeKalb County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski Jr. said the sheriff's office was the first law enforcement agency within the county to go live with body cameras.

“I'm glad to see other departments in the county are following suit,” Pietrowski said.

According to Sycamore city meeting documents, the proposal included 20 body cameras, mounting brackets, charging stations, software and licensing and five-year warranties.

Sycamore Police Chief Jim Winters said the department is almost finished creating a body-worn camera policy in accordance with state law. He said the department also would adhere to requirements for keeping video, including all non-flagged video for 90 days and flagged video for two years.

“We continue to have dialogue with our officers who will be using these, dialogue with other departments and also the state’s attorney’s office to make sure that we have a policy that’s conducive to accomplish what we want to accomplish, which is to build on transparency, but also make sure that we’re keeping peoples’ privacy rights in tact, too,” Winters said.

Winter said there is going to be a good training program available for officers regarding the new body cameras. However, he said, people need to understand that two-dimensional video footage isn't always going to answer every question, it's not always going to capture everything and reports will be just as important to write.

“But it will be an enhancement into that evidence collection and also that transparency,” Winters said.

Gregory said the city previously replaced the police department's in-car camera system and were able to secure state grant funds for that. While the city did not have body cams initially budgeted in the city’s capital program, he said, some of the grant funds that were meant for the in-car system, along with other police capital allocation, will be used to fund the body camera system, which will fully integrate with the department's in-car system.

Winters said the system will be a local server-based system – same as the current in-car camera system – as opposed to cloud-based. However, he said, the police department would have the option in the agreement with WatchGuard to upgrade to the cloud-server system, should they need or want to.

City officials anticipate the cameras to be implemented by Jan. 1, 2021, according to city documents.

Ward 1 Alderman Josh Huseman said he appreciated police officials going through the exercise of researching and ultimately proposing the body cameras program. He said he knows this type of request has been called for in police departments across the country, not just locally, and that it would help police instill trust in the community.

"I think this puts us in a good category," Huseman said.

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