City Council approves EPD to purchase additional camera-equipped tasers


Elena Sucharetza/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington talks with community members about gun violence. Eddington presented at City Council Monday night about obtaining tasers equipped with cameras for the city’s officers.

Nora Shelly, Reporter

City Council approved the Evanston Police Department’s request to purchase additional tasers during Monday’s council meeting, ensuring each officer will be in possession of one while on duty.

The decision came after discussion in the Administration and Public Works Committee to allow for city officials to take $60,072.65 from the narcotics seizures reserve fund to purchase an additional 30 tasers equipped with cameras to add to the 19 the department already owns.

Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said an increase in use of tasers on the police force may limit the need for firearm use.

“It’s another tool to reduce risk of an accidental gun shooting,” Braithwaite told The Daily.

This comes after Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington mandated that each officer who works in the field be trained in taser use and be required to carry one while on duty. Previous training for taser use had been optional, which limited the amount of tasers the city needed.

James Pickett, deputy chief of support services for EPD, said during the committee meeting before council that roughly half of EPD officers are trained in taser use. The money to purchase the tasers will come out of the narcotics seizures reserve fund, which had a balance of more than $250,000 at the end of 2015.

The committee also discussed whether the fund, which must be spent on law enforcement processes, could be used to purchase other equipment for the department.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) and Braithwaite asked Pickett whether the fund could be used to purchase other equipment, such as surveillance cameras that could be used to monitor “hot-spots” for drug trafficking that are difficult for EPD officers to patrol in-person.

Pickett said during the meeting these cameras were a possibility, but told The Daily afterwards that it wasn’t something that could be done easily.

“We’d have to go to the community about that,” he said. “That’s a pretty expensive purchase.”

Braithwaite said he has started the process to make the cameras a reality, and that he hoped to see discussion and action on the topic over the next two council meetings.

The video recording of police interactions has been a topic of discussion among city officials since August, when Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill that authorized the implementation of body camera use. The 19 tasers the city already owns are also equipped with cameras, although what they can record is limited, as the camera is only activated when the taser is in use or in the “on” position.

City officials are still exploring implementing a body camera program for EPD, but the process has been delayed due to gaps in state funding and the denial of a federal grant in October that would have reduced costs as the city looked to purchase the cameras. Additionally, other administrative challenges associated with body cameras and concerns over citizen privacy are complicating the process.

Braithwaite told the Daily that he believed Eddington wanted to wait to see how body camera programs fared in other towns before trying to implement a program in Evanston.

“There’s no rush,” he said.

Martin Lyons, assistant city manager, said during the committee meeting there has been a lot of confusion in the state about body cameras, and that even if Evanston received federal or state funding, the program would have a slow start and would likely involve a lengthy pilot period.

As for when the new tasers would be purchased, officials remained unclear. While Pickett said that it was impossible to guess when they would arrive, Braithwaite said it will be sooner rather than later.

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