Rantoul Police Using Body Cameras During Patrol

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 RANTOUL--Police officers in Rantoul will now have evidence of just about everything they encounter on the job.

"Now we have the ability to record from our side of things and what we're seeing," said Sgt. Marcus Beach.    

Thanks to 23 body cameras that are being worn by all officers out on patrol. An anonymous donor gave the department $16,000 to buy the gear back in 2011. But before the technology could be deployed, the department had to figure out how to use it within the limits of Illinois' eavesdropping law.

"There were specific exemptions for law enforcement for the use of car cameras and taser cameras," said Lt. Jeff Wooten. "But not for the use of body worn cameras."

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional this past spring. So Rantoul police started wearing the body cams about a month ago, while people across the country considered whether the use of such technology would've reduced the unrest they were witnessing in Ferguson, Missouri.

"Our hope is that it would prevent anything close to what happened in Ferguson," said Wooten. "I don't think any community would want to weather something like that. So what this does is offer our officers an extra layer of protection."

"It not only protects us as officers, it protects the citizens as well," said Beach. "And it gives them an understanding that hey, what's going on and what this officer is doing is also being recorded."

The body cameras will be used during all patrol stops, and that included house calls, and being pulled over. But an officer will always let the individual know when they are being recorded.

"It's so important to us that we tell people that we're audio and video recording so that there is nothing that we're trying to hide," said Beach. "And I have not had a single person ask me to stop recording when I come into their home."

Once the officer returns to the station, the raw video from the field is automatically uploaded to Evidence.com, a secure system that logs exactly what is recorded.

"It captures what is actually happening. So you can take out the public perception, you can take out the officer's individual perceptions and you actually get a true picture of what is going on on the scene," said Beach.

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