In the wake of the police shootings in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY, the issue of police body cameras has come into public conversation as a potential means to create transparency and to safeguard against police misconduct. The Champaign county town of Rantoul, IL recently equipped their police force with body cameras, having tested and trained their department on the technology for over a year before they began using them in November. This September, the ACLU of Illinois published suggested guidelines on the use of police body cameras which outline areas of concern ranging from basic privacy protections for the police wearing them, when and where police can turn the device on and off, and storage protocols for the video files once they are recorded. The News-Gazette spoke with ACLU of Illinois communications and public policy director Ed Yohnka on the use of body cameras by law enforcement.
The ACLU supports the type of system already in place in Rantoul, where most video footage is kept for 90 days. If it results in arrest, the policy calls for the video to be manually deleted after the court case is concluded.
“And you really need to put some parameters around who gets access to videos,” Yohnka said. “You don’t want a YouTube channel devoted to drunken people falling down on body cameras.”