An Evanston alderperson has proposed that the city’s property standards inspectors be equipped with body worn cameras — but city staff says the idea appears impractical.

The Administration and Public Works Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal from Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) on Monday.

A staff memo says some landlords have told Burns they deeply distrust the city’s code enforcement officers.

Evanston police already wear body cams, and Burns suggests that making the inspectors wear them as well — and having their performance subject to review by the Citizens Police Review Committee — would promote public confidence in the professionalism and accountability of the inspectors.

But Interim Community Development Director Sarah Flax says that under state law the inspectors — unlike police — would have to get permission from each person they encounter during an inspection for permission to use the camera.

And she suggests residents may not be willing to have an inspection of their unit filmed, even if the residents aren’t present, because it could be seen as an invasion of privacy.

She adds that staff is concerned that the cameras could create tensions and make inspections seem adversarial and that camera use would take a substantial amount of time and limit the number of inspections performed.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. Another hare – brained “proposal” from one of our hare – brained government officials. Do some of these people *ever* think things through before presenting them…!!!???

    1. If a resident did consent to allow a city inspector to make a video recording of their unit, would other departments be permitted to look at it? If the police were to see something which appeared to violate a law, would that give them probable cause to allow them to demand access to the unit?

      I hope someone on the APW check’s that and related questions before they move forward.

  2. Good evening Evanston Now readers. This is Councilmember Burns, the elected official mentioned in the article.

    The policy change that I’m working on, the one I’ve submitted to the City’s referral form that we’re discussing tomorrow, does not mention body worn cameras. Here it is for your review:

    Briefly describe your intended policy change?

    “Adding a section of the code to expand the misconduct complaint process to include code enforcement officers in the parking, property standards and possibly the building divisions.”

    I think the confusion came from another question on the City’s referral form that asks, “How does it relate to or affect other City policies or ordinances?”

    My response pointed out that our body camera policy could change as part of this discussion if the council decided to expand the policy to include all code enforcement officers. I encourage everyone to watch tomorrow’s APW meeting to follow the discussion for yourself. You can watch live or view the replay on YouTube. I’m also happy to talk more by if anyone has additional questions: bburns@cityofevanston.org

    1. Thank you for taking the time to provide the clarification. I will be sure to watch the committee meeting so that I can see first-hand what is going on.

  3. Totally unnecessary idea. There’s definitely many more things Bobby Burns could be working on to help the residents of the 5th ward.

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