Kudos to the village of Brookfield and its police department for being one of the first in the Chicago suburbs – and certainly in the western suburbs – to move ahead with purchasing and equipping police officers with body cameras.

While all Illinois police agencies must eventually equip their officers with the body cam technology, small towns like Brookfield had several years to do so. Despite the leeway and the expense of bringing the technology to Brookfield, elected officials as well as the police command staff made body cams a priority in the 2021 budget.

Now, we’d like to encourage the rest of the police agencies which are part of the West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3) emergency dispatch center – which includes Riverside, North Riverside and McCook – to follow suit.

So far, Riverside and North Riverside have put off taking the plunge due to the initial financial outlay. The hardware, software and technical support needed to get these systems up and running are not cheap, and once implemented the systems are a perpetual expense that will also include needing to replace equipment and make upgrades as technology changes.

But, as the use of body cameras proliferates, we’ve already seen how video from the cameras can be used to either reaffirm or contradict accounts of incidents, particularly violent ones involving police and citizens.

There may be some resistance to the cameras on the part of police, but the reality is police officers have chosen their profession and must accept the enormous responsibility that comes with having the capacity to use deadly force.

In the end, however, we believe the benefit to police officers will be as great from a training perspective and from the perspective of defending their actions as the benefit to citizens, who deserve an unvarnished record of police interactions.

Of course, how police employ the technology – how and when it’s turned on and off – is a critical part of the equation, and we’re happy to learn that the cameras can be switched on automatically, taking out the human element in situations where something like flipping a switch can get lost in the shuffle.

With the 2020-21 fiscal year coming to a close in less than two weeks, North Riverside trustees will soon be engaged in making budget decisions for the fiscal year that begins May 1.

Our hope is that body cameras will be a priority in North Riverside and that the technology will be adopted and officers equipped by late 2021 or early 2022. 

As Riverside’s new president and village trustees settle into their roles, we also hope that they make body cameras a priority for the 2022 fiscal year beginning Jan. 1.

This is a technology whose time has come and for the benefit of both police and citizens they swear an oath to protect, that technology needs to be employed sooner rather than later.