Evanston City Council members approved a five-year, $2.5 million contract for Axon police body cams and dashboard cameras early Tuesday morning, despite one member’s concerns about a new drone included in the bundle.
Ald. Devon Reid (8th) extensively questioned Interim Police Chief Richard Eddington about issues including whether the drone would be linked to facial recognition software (No), whether it would be used to spy into people’s windows (Not without a warrant), how long drone video footage would be saved (30 days) and whether the drone video would be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (Yes).
Eddington said the new drone would be especially useful for lakefront search and rescue situations, where its infrared camera capability could easily spot a person from the warmth of their body compared to the water.
Fire Chief Paul Polep said the drone would be shared with his department and both city units were working to train more personnel in the drone’s use.
Eddington said the new drone would have the capability to send a video signal to a command post so that officers in charge of a situation would have a real-time view of action on the scene.
With the city’s current drone, only the drone’s operator can directly see the images captured by the drone’s camera and the operator has to relay any information verbally to command personnel.
Eddington said he anticipates using the existing drone for training purposes in the future — since there’s a risk a new operator could crash a drone during training.
The alders approved the contract on a 7-1 vote, with Reid voting no. Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) had left the meeting by the time the vote was taken shortly after midnight.