Ill. county sheriff's office to equip deputies, COs with body cameras

Winnebago County Sheriff's Office deputies and COs are wrapping up training on the use of body cameras this week


By Ken DeCoster
Rockford Register Star

ROCKFORD, Ill. — While city leaders weigh protesters' demands to equip Rockford police officers with body cameras, all uniformed deputies with the Winnebago County Sheriff's Office will begin wearing body cameras on Thursday, and correctional officers will have them by the end of next week, Chief Deputy Rick Ciganek said.

The Winnebago County Board approved a plan Nov. 26 to outfit the sheriff's department with 186 body cameras, 135 Tasers and 55 dashboard cameras from Scottsdale, Arizona-based Axon Enterprises Inc., formerly known as Taser International.

The Winnebago County Board approved a plan Nov. 26 to outfit the sheriff's department with 186 body cameras. (Photo/MCT)
The Winnebago County Board approved a plan Nov. 26 to outfit the sheriff's department with 186 body cameras. (Photo/MCT)

Ninety-five Tasers purchased for deputies and 55 dashboard cameras for all marked Winnebago County Sheriff's Office squad cars already are in use.

Of the 40 Tasers acquired for correctional officers, 26 are in use by supervisors and members of the Correctional Emergency Response Team.

The five-year, $2.4 million purchase agreement includes unlimited data storage, evidence management and an out clause after the first year that the board can exercise if it fails to find a sustainable funding mechanism.

Sheriff's deputies and correctional officers are wrapping up training on the use of body cameras this week, said Ciganek, who wore a body camera while working for the Elgin Police Department.

"What we found was the body cameras helped resolve complaints overwhelmingly on the side of police officers because the cameras capture what happened," he said. "The other side of that is when police officers acted inappropriately, it was a lot easier to hold those officers accountable because the whole interaction was recorded."

The use of body cameras is governed by state law, Ciganek said.

Cameras must be in the recording mode during any law enforcement-related encounter or activity, including traffic stops, pedestrian stops, arrests, searches, interrogations, pursuits and crowd control.

Cameras are turned off upon request from crime victims, witnesses and confidential informants.

The cameras are automatically triggered when an officer activates a squad car's lights, when the officer draws a Taser or when a gunshot is fired.

"It helps with investigations, particularly when dealing with domestic violence," Ciganek said. "Initially, officers will respond to scenes and they will get statements from victims describing a crime. A lot of times with domestics, victims later recant and they'll say, 'I never told police that.' Body camera footage can be used as evidence in court."

Body camera video of officer-involved shootings and other uses of deadly force will be available for immediate review by the Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office, said County Board member Aaron Booker, R-1, a retired Winnebago County sheriff's patrol sergeant who served 21 years on the department.

"What I like about that is the state's attorney's office can get ahead of the game," Booker said. "This is something that I wish we had back when I was on the street with the sheriff's department. This is something that is going to prevent a lot of headaches and it should quell potential disturbances where we can get the news out in a quicker fashion."

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©2020 Rockford Register Star, Ill.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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