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Council to discuss police body cameras

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A special Evanston City Council meeting has been called for 4 p.m. Monday at which police officials will present a report on the city’s body-worn camera program.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says the aldermen are not scheduled to take any action at the meeting, but that because a quorum of aldermen is likely to be present, it was decided to notice the session as a special council meeting.

Bobkiewicz says that if aldermen decide to proceed with full implementation of the body camera program, it could have a significant impact on the city’s budget for next year. Bobkiewicz has estimated that the city is likely to have a $3 million to $5 million shortfall in revenue this year and projections for the 2018 fiscal year suggest the need for additional spending cuts.

The body camera program has been estimated to cost about $600,000 to fully implement if the city purchases the cameras, but the city manager says leasing the equipment may offer the option for reducing initial costs.

The presentation Monday, in Room 2402 of the Civic Center, is scheduled to include playback of videos of incidents recorded by the cameras as well as an explanation of operational and technical aspects of the camera system.

Last fall Evanston Police and the Northwestern University Police Department received a federal grant to fund a pilot program to test the cameras.

Last month 11 Evanston officers were outfitted with the cameras to launch the test.

Officials say they hope the cameras will improve public safety, enhance transparency, accountability and trust, reduce complaints against officers and assist in prosecuting criminal cases.

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