The North Riverside Police Department will become the second agency in the Landmark’s coverage area to implement a body camera program after trustees voted 5-0 on Sept. 7 to approve spending $201,000 over the next five years to lease 21 body cameras.
In addition to the Axon body cameras, which will eventually be worn by all North Riverside police officers who are patrolling the streets, the lease deal includes the purchase of 21 Taser side arms, which are also manufactured by Axon.
The Tasers, also known as “conducted electrical weapons,” will replace the police department’s current inventory of Tasers, which are more than seven years old and nine of which are inoperable, according to a memo submitted to the village board by Police Chief Christian Ehrenberg.
By bundling the body cam lease with the Taser purchase, said Ehrenberg, the village will save about $35,000 compared to making separate lease/purchase deals. North Riverside will pay Axon about $40,100 per year over the next five years to finance the purchase of the Tasers and lease the cameras as well as secure iCloud storage of video during that time. The cost of the iCloud storage is included in the annual lease cost.
Because body camera technology is constantly changing, said Ehrenberg, leasing the cameras appeared to be the more practical option. As a result, in years two and five of the program, Axon will provide new body cameras plus any technology upgrades at no additional cost.
In approving the body camera lease agreement, North Riverside joins Brookfield in adopting the technology for police officers. Both municipalities are founding members of West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3) joint emergency dispatch center, along with Riverside.
Late last year, Riverside trustees decided to postpone any body cam purchase until after 2021, but a five-year plan to equip Riverside police officers with the devices has been included in the 2022 capital improvement plan, said Riverside Public Safety Director Matthew Buckley.
Brookfield trustees in April voted to spend about $112,000 over five years to purchase 16 body cameras along with the computer hardware, software and technical support for the system.
But, if the Brookfield experience is any indication, it will take some time before the body cameras are in operation in North Riverside and Riverside. Brookfield Police Chief Michael Kuruvilla had hoped the body cameras would be operational in July, but it’ll still be some time before officers start wearing them on duty.
“This is one of the single greatest changes to our operations technologically,” Kuruvilla said. “Certainly it’s more nuanced than slapping them on the front of everybody’s vest. I want to make sure all of the little things are ironed out correctly.”
Brookfield took possession of the body camera equipment this summer and underwent a day of training with an Axon representative last month. Kuruvilla said the department is still finalizing its body camera use policy and is working through a timeline for implementation.
Although he said he could not give an exact date when the body cameras will start being used, he said it would be before the end of 2021.
All police agencies in Illinois are required to equip their officers with body cameras by 2025, after the Illinois General Assembly passed a bill calling for the adoption of that technology earlier this year.