Aurora police now fully outfitted with body-worn cameras; new squad cameras coming soon
All police officers in the state's second-largest city are now equipped with body-worn cameras that supervisors and other officers can view remotely on a livestream.
And soon, 150 police vehicles will have new windshield-mounted cameras, with the same capability Aurora police officials announced Monday.
They showed off the new equipment at a news conference Monday morning in the department's Critical Incident Intelligence Center. The CIIC is a large room with computer stations and a video wall where police monitor and disseminate information from various sources, including street-corner cameras, social media posts and tips.
The city bought 315 body-worn cameras, 150 vehicle cameras, 150 Taser stun guns and cloud-based data storage from Axon Enterprise Inc. for more than $4 million, according to Paris Lewbel, the public information officer for the police department.
All police departments in Illinois are required to equip officers with body-worn cameras by Jan. 1, 2025. Aurora began planning for the cameras in 2017 but did not intend to purchase them until 2023, Chief Keith Cross said.
Then came the protests in the wake of the in-custody murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer in May 2020. Aurora officials started meeting with residents to discuss policing.
"Shortly after the first few listening sessions, we realized we needed to fast-track our body-worn camera project," Cross said.
"Officers' words might not have been taken as gospel as it used to be," Cross said.
Video recording officers' interactions with the public show "we have nothing to hide," Cross said.
If a member of the public wants to see camera footage from a specific incident, however, they need to file a Freedom of Information Act request for it. But the department has occasionally posted squad-camera footage.
Police officers can turn on the cameras. The body and vehicle cameras also will be activated when a vehicle's flashing lights and sirens are turned on -- and so will the cameras of other officers nearby. In addition, body cameras will be turned on when a Taser is turned on.
Supervisors or other monitors can activate a livestream and watch what is happening from the CIIC. Lt. Bryan Handell said that can help save time, as a supervisor can give advice and instructions remotely rather than having to drive out to the scene.
The watcher can pull up several cameras and relay what they see from different perspectives.
The city will release videos over the next week explaining the cameras, the Tasers and other updates to its technology.