Urbana council hears benefits of body cameras for police

URBANA — The executive director of a people- and policy-focused nonprofit organization told the Urbana City Council that the use of body cameras on city police officers would benefit the community.

“This is considered, when used properly, a best practice,” said Todd Lawrence Belcore of Chicago Social Change. “People act better when they are on camera. It relieves administrative burden, it helps cops to be more effective and it helps abusers to be more accountable.”

Belcore said the use of body cameras “can account for someone’s reactions and someone’s wounds.”

“It makes your police department more effective. With body cams, you know that everything going on is being chronicled.”

Belcore said the city could set policies to determine when police can turn their cameras on and off.

“You don’t need to see officers eating,” he said.

“I am seeing growing support from police officers for body cameras,” said Alderman Aaron Ammons, who said he intends to formally bring the issue before the council in the future.

Alderman Charlie Smyth expressed concern over the cost.

“The big issue for me is the cost of storing the data,” he said.

“This could be a tremendous administrative expense in terms of time and money,” said Alderman Michael Madigan.

Urbana police Lt. Joel Sanders said it would be difficult to speculate on the cost of adding body cameras.

“My research supports, and discussion with other departments confirm, the body-worn cameras should complement, not replace, squad car cameras, and the two systems must work together,” Sanders said. “The department’s current squad car camera system is due to be replaced in two years, and we would like to purchase both body-worn and squad car cameras at that time.”

In other business, the council learned about a plan to develop a New Orleans-inspired bar featuring live music and a beer garden in downtown Urbana.

Downtown Creations LLC,…

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