Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

House Bill Mandates Squad Cameras

Illinois House Bill 3202, if passed, would require all police patrol vehicles to be equipped with audio and video recording devices by July 1, 2014.  The device would have to be capable of recording 10 hours of audio and video, and the bill would mandate that recording must run from the beginning to end of an “enforcement stop.”

An enforcement stop is defined as virtually any violation of the Illinois Vehicle Code (IVC), including traffic stops, and the bill explicitly includes field sobriety tests and portable breath tests that must be recorded.  Also, recording devices generally have to be activated whenever the squad’s lights are activated or any other time the officer reasonably believes recording would assist in prosecution, enhance safety, or promote any other lawful concern. The recordings would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and could be subpoenaed, subject to a $25 fee.

One obvious concern is the economic expense this would have, because several police departments do not have video cameras currently installed or do not have cameras installed capable of meeting the bill’s technical requirements.

Another concern is the time this would require to respond to what would almost certainly become a substantial increase in FOIA requests and subpoenas for even minor IVC violations, such as failure to wear a seatbelt.

A more subtle concern is that the glitches in the recording devices, which are not infrequent even in high security settings like banks, could seriously prejudice law enforcement efforts. The bill’s language suggests that any failure of the police department to properly record and transfer the recording to the defendant upon request may result in other evidence being limited in court if the same evidence could have been viewed or heard in the recording. The bill would likely result in law enforcement having a more difficult time prosecuting traffic offenses and incurring a significant overhead expense to comply.


William C. Westfall

Author: William C. Westfall