In April 2022, the Wheaton Police Department will begin equipping all sworn police officers with body worn cameras. Introducing this technology into our Police Department’s operations involved substantial research, planning and investment. Once in place, this is another tool our Police Department will use to promote transparency and accountability in our service to the community.
We understand the Wheaton community may have some questions regarding this change. Leading up to implementation of body worn cameras, we are providing some background information below on the decision to adopt this technology, and we will also be releasing a series of weekly Q & A videos to give you a greater awareness of body camera functions, benefits, limitations, and police guidelines/laws for use, storage, and the public privacy of those captured on camera. Please see this first short video with the Wheaton Police Department introducing this initiative.
The Wheaton Police Department appreciates your support and will continue to work tirelessly to be worthy of that support.
Why Police Departments Use Body Worn Cameras
Body worn cameras are becoming more commonplace in law enforcement. The quality of the technology continues to evolve, and an increasing number of law enforcement agencies are embracing body worn cameras to improve transparency and accountability. Extensive studies and research affirm the technology, which can be mounted on an officer’s uniform, offers law enforcement with a tool to promote transparency to the public, increased civilian compliance, quicker resolutions to citizen complaints, increased officer professionalism, and assist with criminal prosecutions.
Wheaton’s Planning & Testing
In the fall of 2020, the City decided to secure funding in 2021 for the purchase and deployment of body worn cameras for our officers. The Wheaton Police Department formulated a plan that included time to research and evaluate various body worn camera vendors against the needs of the police department. We extensively researched the implementation and associated costs along with the potential benefits through staff research, field testing, and relevant white paper/case law review.
The Wheaton Police Department identified the top body worn camera companies in the industry. Throughout 2021, the Police Department conducted trial periods, where selected officers were equipped with a body worn camera. The project team was assembled to assess critical facets of each system’s impact on the police department’s current infrastructure including Records, FOIA requests/redactions, evidence/case management, officer and supervisor use, software, and hardware. This was essential, as it provided us with first-hand experience with each company’s products.
Additionally, we learned valuable lessons from other police departments that had experience deploying body worn cameras. Members of our command staff traveled across state lines to interview officers/department heads and see some of these body worn cameras in use at their various police agencies.
At the conclusion of the trials and department research, AXON proved to have the highest level of efficiency and functionality across all essential shared features while also possessing exclusive critical features which will optimize our police department’s efficiency.
In October of 2021, the Wheaton Police Department presented our research findings to the City Council during a public planning session. The City Council voted unanimously to implement and fund the purchase and implementation of Axon body worn cameras. Since that time, the Wheaton Police Department has been working diligently on our implementation strategy to ensure an efficient and effective rollout of body-worn cameras. We are currently on pace for full deployment into police services in April of 2022.
The City of Wheaton and the Wheaton Police Department did not make this decision lightly. We began researching the benefits of body-worn cameras well before our state legislatures made it mandatory. Body-worn cameras will not be mandatory in Wheaton until Jan. 1, 2024, but we are not waiting for that date. When we concluded our research, it was apparent body worn cameras would be beneficial for the police department and the community. We did not hesitate to move forward with the purchase and implementation because it was the right thing to do.
To be clear, body worn cameras do not make a police department professional. Hiring moral and ethical people, providing them with continuous training, and having a principled culture based on respect and compassion are the true hallmarks of a professional police department.