Chicago to Expand Police Body Cam Program Amid Heightened Scrutiny

The city of Chicago will expand its use of police body cameras to an additional six districts by mid-2016, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy announced Sunday.

The program will be paid for with a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which will be matched by $1.1 million in city funds.

“Improving public safety and making Chicago a safer city has been one of my highest priorities,” Emanuel said. “Expanding this successful program into one-third of the city will help enhance transparency and credibility as well as strengthen the fabric of trust that is vital between police and the community.”

The announcement comes in the wake of heightened public scrutiny and protests regarding the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, who died last year after being shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer. Dash cam footage of McDonald’s fatal shooting was made public Tuesday, hours after Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder.

The districts receiving new body cameras will be announced in the coming days, and in February the Chicago Police Department will be purchasing next-generation cameras that can record up to 72 hours of high-definition footage on a single charge, according to a statement from the mayor’s office. The program also allows for equipment upgrades every 30 months to ensure officers have the “best technology available,” according to the statement.

"Equipping every officer with a wearable camera device allows us to harness the power of technology to better serve the people of Chicago,” McCarthy said. “In addition to protecting police officers and citizens, cameras have been shown to reduce citizen complaints against police and are great tools for evidence gathering and training as they allow us to learn from actual encounters with the public.”