University Police to begin using body-worn cameras

Peter Kotecki, Campus Editor

University Police will begin using body-worn cameras to increase transparency and accountability, Chief of Police Bruce Lewis announced via email Wednesday.

Gloria Graham, deputy chief of police, said she expects UP to begin using the body cameras by the end of this academic year.

“One of the best practices in policing right now is the appropriate use of body worn cameras,” she said. “I emphasize that word — appropriate — because you can have body-worn cameras and not have good policy surrounding them, and then you just have another piece of equipment that may or may not be being used right.”

According to a news release, $30,000 from this year’s Good Neighbor Fund donation will be allocated toward police safety cameras, which include body cameras, dashboard cameras and surveillance cameras. Evanston Police Department is working toward implementing body cameras in partnership with UP, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said.

Bobkiewicz said he thinks UP is slightly ahead of EPD in implementing body cameras. The two departments are working together, however, because they plan to use the same brand of devices and systems for data recording, he said.

“The bottom line is that we want to make sure we standardize the same technology so we can use economies of scale in managing that technology overtime,” Bobkiewicz said. “So that’s body cameras; that’s dash cameras in patrol cars; that’s the cameras that are used for surveillance in the buildings and in the community here in Evanston.”

Evanston resident Carolyn Murray, a candidate for 5th Ward alderman and a local gun control advocate, said body cameras are a great step toward increasing transparency in police departments. She said she hopes police will review who receives the cameras first and assign them to those who have received the most complaints in the past.

The decision to include body cameras shows the police department is making an effort to hold officers accountable for any wrongdoing, Murray said.

Murray added she feels body cameras are more effective than neighborhood cameras in solving crime in Evanston.

In its efforts to be more transparent, UP also launched a new webpage, Graham said.

The page shows data on policing, such as whom UP is stopping, which officers are stopping people and what kinds of traffic stops the department is engaging in, she said. The decision to make this data public was a result of a series of national conversations on policing, she said.

“We decided, why don’t we share this with the community?” Graham said. “If we identify a problem, we should address the problem and we should be transparent about what it is we’re doing, especially when this is a national concern.”

UP will publish information on the webpage quarterly, Graham said, but the department reviews data closely each month to identify any trends.

Graham said UP is also focusing on inclusivity. Its in-service training earlier this year discussed implicit bias research, LGBTQ awareness and dealing with trauma after sexual assault or domestic violence, she said.

The theme of this year’s in-service training was inclusiveness, Graham said. UP wants its officers to be comfortable having conversations with different groups of people on campus, including survivors of domestic violence and those who have been traumatized by sexual assault, she said.

Graham said it was helpful for officers to understand how to use appropriate language and be conscious of pronoun use.

She added there is a lot of talk about fair and equitable policing, and implicit bias is a big piece of the discussion. The topic was chosen because UP had not found a record of having ever done training that included presentations about research on implicit bias, she said.

It is important to understand that even people with good intentions have biases, Graham said.

“If you know that about yourself, or even you know that about your peers or the people that you’re supervising, then you can take some sort of action to counter that bias,” she said.

Allyson Chiu and Nora Shelly contributed reporting.

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