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McHenry County Board approves body cameras for Sheriff’s Office

After more than a year of work, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office is getting body cameras.

The McHenry County Board on Tuesday approved a contract to get 107 body cameras for the sheriff’s office, as well as 80 in-car cameras.

Officials expect the cameras to be rolled out in mid-summer, which comes several months before the state’s January 2023 deadline. Undersheriff Robb Tadelman said the move will allow the agency to train its deputies and smooth out kinks before the deadline.

Tadelman said he expects the devices to assist deputies in several ways, including helping close cases, answering questions that may come up about an officer’s integrity and showcasing the work they do.

“We are excited for the opportunity,” Tadelman said. “We have the utmost confidence in our deputies that they do a good job out there and I think this is just another tool that allows us to show the good work that we’re doing.”

The item was approved Tuesday as part of the County Board’s consent agenda, with little discussion taking place from Board members on the new contract. On Thursday, County Board Chairman Mike Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, said he’s glad the county is exceeding the state’s requirements, calling the cameras popular. Although he noted their limitations, calling them a 2D look at a 3D world.

“I think overall it’s great for public safety and the safety of our men on the street as well,” Buehler said.

The contract is for five years through Axon Enterprise, Inc., with a total cost of a little less than $2.1 million. This brings the total each year to about $418,000. Initially, the funding will come from federal money received through the American Recovery Plan Act. Buehler said the county eventually will need to find a way to fund it themselves.

“It’s something that we’re going to have to deal with,” he said. “It’s no different than any of the other unfunded state mandates that we’ve been facing over the course of the last couple of years.”

Options chosen within the contract include the Core+ plan, which offers a different type of electronic stun gun and unlimited duty cartridges, costing about $20 a month more per user, according to county material.

The second package, for the vehicles, is the Fleet 3 Advanced program, which includes refreshed hardware every five years, a livestreaming service called Axon Respond, and automatic license plate readers, background material from the county shows. This option runs about $80 more per vehicle per month than the basic package.

The cameras come more than a year after Illinois lawmakers passed legislation that requires police agencies in the state to have body cameras by 2025. Tadelman, however, said efforts to get the devices date back before then, saying it was not a “knee-jerk reaction” to the statute.

The road to the contract has been paved with many hurdles, Tadelman said, including issues with storage, and subsequently the cost to that, as well as the personnel to manage the program and prepare footage to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests. Testing the devices and certification, as well as training, are all checklist items needed to roll out the cameras too, he said.

“You’re talking about a $2.1 million project that we have to address,” Tadelman said. “That’s not a small item …. It’s not just, click a finger and you get body cams and everything’s good. There’s a lot of work that goes with it.”

Tadelman said the footage will owned by the sheriff’s office and would be accessible to the public through FOIA. He said Axon will not have access to the footage, and any footage not categorized as evidence will deleted after 90 days.

Board member Michael Vijuk, D-Cary, on Tuesday thanked Sheriff Bill Prim and his staff for their efforts and requested monthly reports on the devices.

“Our county has done remarkably well with this endeavor and I hope that we can continue collaboratively working toward other measures that would safely protect our citizens of this county,” he said.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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