Sheriff questions legality of body camera bill

The deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Freddie Gray in Baltimore while in police custody are fueling the national debate over body cameras.

Illinois is trying to become the first state in the nation to have its officers wear small body cameras while on duty. The bill sits on Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk, but one local sheriff isn’t so sure he supports the idea.

Three years ago, at the request of his deputies, Williamson County Sheriff Bennie Vick purchased technology that could become the new norm: body cameras.

“Correctional officers like them,” Vick said. “If someone is causing problems they make the inmates aware that they are being recorded, and it seems to have a calming effect.”

Now, Illinois lawmakers have left it up to Rauner to decide if jailhouse policing will work in the outside world.

“Putting them on patrol officers is probably a pretty good idea, but there are a lot of things that go along with that they haven’t thought through,” Vick said.

Vick said having patrol officers wear body cameras could add an extra level of safety, but he’s hesitant to give them to his 22 patrol officers because he feels it could be breaking the law.

“Right now we still don’t have any clear definitions on our eves-dropping laws, so they may be forcing us to commit felonies if they try to force us to wear those,” Vick said.

Factoring in the legal and monetary cost of managing the video, Vick said this may be a system best left in lock-up.

If signed into law by Rauner, Illinois would add $5 onto traffic tickets to pay for the cameras.

The bill would also ban officers from using chokeholds and create a database to track officer misconduct.

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