Credit: Axon Enterprise, Inc

Brookfield police officers patrolling the village’s streets will be equipped with body cameras sometime later this summer after village trustees voted unanimously to spend $112,174 over the next five years to purchase 16 cameras along with the hardware, software and technical support for the system at the April 12 meeting of the Brookfield Village Board.

Earlier this year, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation mandating that all police agencies in Illinois equip police officers with body cameras, though small municipalities like Brookfield, Riverside and North Riverside have until 2025 to comply.

Brookfield will be the first agency within the West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3) emergency dispatch agency, which includes Riverside, North Riverside and McCook, to employ body camera technology.

“I feel we are well ahead of the curve on this,” Deputy Police Chief Michael Kuruvilla told village trustees before they voted to make the purchase last week.

Last year amid the civil unrest that followed George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, Kuruvilla got the go ahead to explore bringing body cam technology to the village.

“After George Floyd and since the summer of 2020, I’ve been asked on a regular basis, ‘When is this coming?’”

Kuruvilla was a good candidate to research the initiative, because earlier he had chosen body cameras as his area of study while attending Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s Police School of Staff and Command after being named deputy chief in late 2019.

“I started to recognize personally how this tool has been a benefit, particularly for police departments,” Kuruvilla told the Landmark last fall. “Even before all of the tragic things that have happened this year, this is a topic I thought we were going to have to face sooner than later.”

Brookfield will enter into a contract with Axon Enterprise Inc. to provide the cameras and underlying technology, which includes a cloud-based evidence storage system already approved for use by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Axon’s system will also save time in police responding to public records requests for body cam video, because the system features an auto-redaction feature that can blur images of people not involved in an incident.

The cloud-based storage is also cost effective in that it can store body camera video for 90 days per state law, and will not force the police department to buy a new computer server system.

The village is buying the camera technology through a Minnesota-based municipal purchasing cooperative called Sourcewell, said Kuruvilla. 

Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency (IRMA), the village’s risk management cooperative is providing the village with a $10,000 grant to help defray the cost of the purchase.

Kuruvilla told the Landmark that the village ought to take delivery of the cameras and other hardware and software in the next six weeks and that he expected the system to be operational by the end of July.

It will take some time for the department to iron out its body camera use policy and program the system to automatically turn on the cameras when police respond. Kuruvilla said the system can be triggered in a number of ways, from turning on a squad car’s emergency lights to opening the vehicle’s door to unholstering weapons. 

If one officer’s camera turns on, the system can also turn on the cameras of any Brookfield police officer within 30 feet.

Trustee Michael Garvey, a defense attorney with experience using body camera video in criminal cases, said he fully supported the expenditure.

“It for the protection of the officers, it’s for the protection of the residents, it’s protection for everyone with whom the police interact,” said Garvey who added the fact that IRMA is chipping in $10,000 demonstrates that they believe it will lower the village’s risk level. “These videos often just solve things pretty easily.”

Trustee Edward Cote, who last year urged the village to seriously consider body cameras for police also praised the initiative.

“This is the first line of protection, and it’s so important to have everything recorded because that’s where the truth is,” Cote said. “No stories, no bias, no hiding. It’s right there. … This is so important and so necessary.”