Soon all 12 of the Forest Park Police Department’s squad cars will be equipped with a new camera system that cannot be turned off. The village council voted unanimously last week to approve the purchase of the new audio and video equipment to replace an aging system that, according to department brass, has been unreliable.
The new system will cost $71,898 and will be paid for with money seized by police during criminal investigations.
The new system is digital and will offer constant monitoring, according to Police Chief Jim Ryan.
“It will be constantly on, it will be constantly running,” Ryan said. “It will have like a 30 second delay and there will be certain things that trigger it, like an auto accident. A front end accident will trigger the camera to go on and it will actually go back 30 seconds, so you get 30 seconds of footage before the actual event that triggered it. It runs constantly, 24-7.”
The current system can be deactivated, and is linked to the use of a squad car’s lights and sirens. In accordance with a department policy, officers must ensure the system is working properly at the start of each shift.
The village is being sued in federal court by Clarence Davis whose arrest was not taped by former Forest Park officer Robert Biel. Following an internal investigation Biel was disciplined for failing to properly document the arrest.
Davis was acquitted in January of a misdemeanor charge and claims that he was brutalized during the 2006 traffic stop. The former officer resigned from the department shortly after the jury’s verdict in the criminal case. Village officials said Biel’s resignation was not specifically related to Davis’ criminal or civil case.
Under the new system the camera cannot be disabled and data collection will be automated using secure wireless technology. Images and audio will be automatically downloaded to a server at village hall via hot spots on the roof when the squad car pulls into its parking space at the municipal office.
“It’s idiot proof,” Village Administrator Michael Sturino said. “I wanted an idiot proof system. We’re confident it will accurately record all the data collected in the car. You pull in and it just pulls the data right out of the car.”
That’s quite a contrast from the current system that uses VHS tapes and a bulky electronic system mounted in the trunk of the squad car.
“Our officers actually have to go into the trunks of the car and change out the tape manually on a regular basis,” Ryan said.
The new system will also feature satellite technology that tracks the vehicle’s location. It should be installed in two to three weeks, said Ryan.