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Evanston Police Chief Richard Eddington says the city’s police officers will start wearing body cameras by July 1.

In a memo to aldermen to be discussed at Monday’s Human Services Committee meeting, Eddington says only some officers will get the cameras in July, but all will be equipped with the cameras by Jan. 1, 2018.

The camera program is one of nearly two dozen policy and procedure changes outlined in the memo, some of which the chief discussed at a community meeting at the Levy Center last Monday.

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The city has been exploring the use of police body cameras at least since 2014, and applied for a federal grant to fund a pilot program early in 2015.

But a state law adopted later that year required that if any officers had the cameras, all of them would be required to use them, and that raised concerns about the cost — especially for managing all the video data that would need to be stored.

Last fall, speaking at a city budget meeting, Eddington said he was working with Northwestern University police, who have more experience with video surveillance technology, to solve the storage cost issues.

And, in the memo for Monday’s meeting, Eddington said the technology for the body camera project  would be implemented in partnership with the NU police.

Body cameras have raised a variety of policy issues for police departments across the country. A policy scorecard developed by the Leadership Conference rates the policy practices of big-city police departments on several dimensions. Details of Evanston’s plans for its body camera policies were not immediately available.

Surveys have generally shown strong public support for body camera use and some research studies have found that the cameras tend to be associated with a reduction in police use of force complaints.

Related story

Chief outlines police procedure changes (1/31/17)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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