It’s not unusual for police officers to be filmed by people with cellphones during a traffic stop nowadays, but police throughout Lake County may be wearing body cameras to monitor interactions as soon as this fall in Round Lake Park, and other departments are not far behind.
From Round Lake Park to Round Lake and Mundelien to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, municipalities and their police departments are moving ahead with body cameras.
“This is definitely the wave of the future and something that’s needed,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said. “Body cameras are a type of evidence and the more evidence we have in any case the better.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner last week signed legislation that lays out the rules for police body cameras in Illinois, making it only the third state in the country to establish such rules, according to an Associated Press analysis. While it does not mandate body cameras, although there was legislation floated that would have done just that, it does specify how they will be worn, when they have to be turned on and how long the recordings must be kept as evidence.
It also established a grant program funded by a $5 addition to traffic tickets to help police departments buy the body cameras.
“They are going to be involved in every case, even misdemeanors,” Nerheim said. “You’re going to see footage on every single case.”
Nerheim said his office is working with the more than 40 police departments in Lake County on uniformity. If each department operated on a different system, that could pose a problem for his office, which would handle the recordings in court.
“It’s important we are part of the process,” he said.
Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko said if everything goes as planned his department will be ready to roll out the body cameras by mid September.
“It’s logical we’re doing this,” he said, “We decided this was the way to go.”
The village has purchased 6 4RE in-car systems with panoramic HD cameras and 13 VISTA HD body-worn cameras that have adjustable lenses so officers can adjust them according to their height. The total cost was approximately $57,000, which also includes a server and needed software.
For Patrol Officer Donna O’Brien, the body camera, which uses industrial strength magnets to hold it in place, is a good thing.
“I prefer them,” she said, “It’s good to have one more form of evidence to back up the truth.”
“I also think it’s good tool for training. I can review how I walked up to a vehicle during a traffic stop or person and see how I might of done it differently,” or see something that may have put her in danger, but she didn’t realize it at the time, she said.
“It will keep me on my toes, but I always act professionally,” she said.
Filenko said the response of his officers has not been “why do we need them,” but “when are we getting them.”
“In my opinion this is going to become standard, it may even be mandatory eventually,” he said. He knew two years ago they were going to need new squad car videos and he thought of incorporating the body cameras with that new system.
“It’s still not going to replace the human eye,” he said, but in the worse-case scenario, an officer involved shooting, “the more video the better,” said Filenko, who is in charge of the Major Crime Task Force that is called in to investigate those shootings.
Round Lake Police Chief Michael Gillette said his mayor and trustees wanted to get ahead of the curve and be pro-active. “I’m proud of the board and the mayor for letting us do that,” he said of their purchase of 15 FirstVu HD cameras from Kansas-based Digital Ally, at a cost of $13,800.
“We feel it’s a good tool for the officers to put together a solid case,” he said, “and of course it would be used in allegations of misconduct. I think they are really good tools.”
Bigger departments have bigger problems with figuring out the financing, but the Waukegan Police Department is “aggressively” researching different models, according to Cmdr. Joe Florip.
“We need to see what will work best (for the 80 patrol officers and 20 patrol cars). We’re excited as an organization to get body cameras. We think it’s best for our community and the police department,” he said.
“It’s priceless when it comes to a citizen complaint. There’s nothing like pulling up a video,” he said, noting that sometimes they can do that now from dash cameras and sometimes residents see their actions in a different light.
The Lake County Chiefs Association, headed by Highland Park Chief Paul Schafer, said they are getting more inquiries from other chiefs about body cameras. There still needs to be a lot of policy work, such as how to handle Freedom of Information requests, obscuring juvenile or witness faces from the video and other issues and having the personnel able to do that.
“There’s a lot of implementation with this new technology that the chiefs are taking a look at,” he said. They plan to have it on their agenda for the September meeting.
Other departments like Round Lake Beach are just starting to look into it, partly because of the funding mechanism included in the bill the governor recently signed. For some departments it would be hard to afford and they want to make sure they get the right equipment.
“We want it done right the first time,” said Police Chief Dave Hare. But he believes they will benefit police and the community.
“Transparency is a good thing for the community and body camera play into that,” he said
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This is what the Illinois court system was up to in February of 2016. Here are the 9 best and worst cases. The last one is the one the prosecution doesn’t want you to know about.
- People v. Boston
Sloppy grand jury work by State’s Attorney does not prejudice defendant. Go to case.
- People v. Ligon
Many objects can qualify as dangerous weapons for purposes of aggravated vehicular hijacking, but not as to armed violence. In other other words, list of bludgeons is greater for AVH and smaller for armed violence. Go to case.
- People v. Zayed
Smell of cannabis does not give this officer a free pass to search this passenger because the officer crossed the line by whipping out the defendant’s penis and essentially conducting an unreasonable strip search. Go to case.
- People v. Jarvis
The visual examination of defendant’s buttocks might have exposed defendant’s anus. Nonetheless, any search for the “person” authorizes a strip search. Go to case.
- People v. Little
This DWLR conviction stands because the police officer didn’t need proof of every element of the crime he was investigating. The stop with limited information was good. Go to case.
- People v. Buschauer
The trial court’s finding was against the manifest weight of the evidence in that a reasonable person in would have felt free to leave at any point during the interrogation. Trial court just can’t ignore the factors that weigh against coercion. Go to case.
- People v. Harrison
This force blood draw was not suppressed because it was done before the McNeely decision and binding precedent was in place. Good faith exception applies. Go to case.
- People v. Moore
Lost photo arrays were not done in bad faith, so no due process violation occurred. The proper remedy for this discovery violation was to grant Civil Jury Instruction 5.01. Go to case.
- People v. Nibbe
Second degree murder conviction is vacated outright because a blow with a bare hand is not ordinarily contemplated to cause death. Go to case.
- People v. Pmulamasaka
This rape is overturned, in large part, because the State committed and the trial judge allowed gross prosecutorial misconduct. Among the list of error committed by the prosecution two stand out. He repeatedly argued the victim was mentally handicapped when there was no such evidence, and he sat in the witness box during closing argument. Go to case.
A sweeping set of new regulations regarding police body cameras is aimed at addressing recent controversies over use of force and standardizing practices across the state.
Police departments would not be required to use the cameras, but now there will be statewide rules for those that do. Chiefly, officers will have to keep their cameras on when conducting law enforcement activities but could turn them off when talking to a confidential informant, or at the request of a victim or witness. Intentionally turning off cameras outside the exceptions could result in a charge of official misconduct.
Recordings generally will not be subject to the state’s open records law, however, unless they contain potential evidence in a use-of-force incident, the discharge of a weapon or a death.
To help pay for the body cameras, the state will charge an extra $5 fee on criminal and traffic offenses that result in a guilty plea or conviction. The money also will bolster an expanded training program that includes topics like use of force. In addition, the law bans the use of choke holds, creates a database of officers who have been fired or resigned because of misconduct and requires an independent investigation of all officer-involved deaths. Also, a special prosecutor can be requested if there is an apparent conflict of interest.
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SALT LAKE CITY — During her 10 years as a Utah state trooper, Lisa Steed built a reputation as an officer with a knack for nabbing drunken motorists in a state with a long tradition of teetotaling and some of the nation’s strictest liquor laws.
Steed used the uncanny talent — as one supervisor once described it — to garner hundreds of arrests, setting records, earning praise as a rising star and becoming the first woman to become trooper of the year.
Today, however, Steed is out of work, fired from the Utah Highway Patrol, and she — and her former superiors — are facing a lawsuit in which some of those she arrested allege she filed bogus DUI reports.
“If we don’t stand up to Lisa Steed or law enforcement, they just pull people over for whatever reason they want,” said attorney Michael Studebaker.
Steed declined to comment, but her attorney Greg Skordas said she denies the allegations. She is trying to get her job back.
The people snared by Steed say the arrests disrupted their lives and were costly to resolve.
Michael Choate, a now-retired aircraft logistics specialist at Hill Air Force Base, said he nearly lost his security clearance and job.
Steed stopped him because he was wearing a Halloween costume and booked him even though three breathalyzers tests showed no alcohol in his system. Choate said he spent $3,800 and had to take four days off of work to get his DUI charged dismissed.
The 49-page lawsuit includes two defendants, but Studebaker said dozens of others are lined up and willing to tell their stories. He said they are requesting the lawsuit be broadened into a class action lawsuit.
Every one of her DUI stops back to at least 2006 should be under suspicion, he said, adding that could be as many as 1,500 people.
The lawsuit, filed in December, also accuses the Utah Highway Patrol of ignoring Steed’s patterns of higher-than-normal DUI bookings and waited too long to take her off patrol. The agency declined to comment.
Steed joined the agency in 2002, and during her first five years, she earned a reputation as a hard-worker whose efficiency led to high arrest totals. By the time she ascended to trooper of the year in 2007, she was held up as one of the agency’s top stars.
In 2009, Steed became a member of the DUI squad. Her 400 DUI arrests that year were thought to be a state record, and more than double the number made by any other highway trooper. She earned special recognition at the state Capitol.
“With her training and experience, it’s second nature for her to find these people who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” her DUI squad boss at the time, Lt. Steve Winward, told the Deseret News.
During a ride-along with the newspaper, Steed said it was simply a “numbers game,” noting that one in every 10 drivers stopped for a violation is driving impaired. “It’s a lot of hard work, but you make a ton of stops, and you’re going to run into them,” she said.
Steed’s career, however, turned. In 2012, while on the stand in a DUI court case, Steed acknowledged purposely leaving her microphone in her patrol car so that superiors wouldn’t know she was violating agency policy.
By April 2012, her credibility had come into question so much that a prosecutor said he would no longer prosecute DUIs if Steed’s testimony was the only evidence.
In October, the Salt Lake Tribune obtained a memo written in May 2010 in which Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Rob Nixon flagged Steed’s “pattern” of questionable DUI arrests. He wrote that the bulk of Steed’s arrestees had no signs of “impairing drugs” in their systems.
The memo said she based most of her arrests on signs of impairment such as dilated pupils and leg and body tremors.
Steed was taken off road patrol in April 2012 and fired in November. She was accused of violating department policies, falsifying police reports and using questionable practices when making DUI arrests.
The lawsuit is based on two defendants: Thomas Romero and Julie Tapia.
Romero was stopped after Steed said he was swerving, according to the lawsuit. After Romero said he wasn’t drinking, Steed gave him a roadside sobriety test anyway. She booked him for DUI even though his blood alcohol content was 0.00. Charges were dismissed.
Tapia went to pick up her ex-husband, who had been drinking. Steed approached Tapia as she got out of her car at her house, saying Tapia had been speeding, the lawsuit said. Steed said she could smell alcohol, and Tapia told her it was coming from her ex-husband.
Tapia was arrested for a DUI; her ex-husband for public intoxication. Tapia’s blood test showed no alcohol. Charges were dropped.
Choate, who hopes to join the lawsuit, said the entire agency should be held responsible for the damage Steed caused to him and others. “They let her get away with it for a long time,” he said.
If you’ve had no alcohol to drink, and you get pulled over by a police officer, you have nothing to fear, right? They can only arrest you if your blood alcohol level is above the state-mandated threshold. And they can only test you if they have your consent or if they have probable cause to do so. If only that were the way things were. Sure, there are laws that are supposed to restrain the government, but these days, those laws are irrelevant. Law enforcement has less to do with enforcing law and more to do with raising revenue and meeting monthly arrest and ticket quotas.
So, even if you had nothing to drink, the officer can still claim that you were “failing to maintain lanes” and use that as probable cause to “suspect” you of DUI, falsely claim on the police report he smelled alcohol on your breath and arrest you on DUI charges.
Even if you’re completely innocent, anything you say will be used against you. They will find a way to twist your words to make it sound like you’re a criminal. This is why so many claim that it’s best just not to say a word to the police. The problem is if you don’t say anything to them, they might arrest you for “obstructing a law enforcement officer.” It seems the best thing to do is to just accept that we live in a tyranny and comply whenever possible so as to stay out of jail. If you choose to “exercise your rights,” expect to wind up in jail. That’s just the culture in which we live.
However, every now and then police officers bark up the wrong tree. And in those cases, as in the recent case of Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Scott Kunstmann, they even end up in jail themselves for doing what was described above—falsifying arrest records and lying during deposition. A local Florida news station reported on one such incident involving Kunstmann and a 71-year-old driver named Culbertson:
“Culbertson was allegedly weaving, so Kunstmann asked a series of questions to determine if a field sobriety test was warranted, and asked another trooper for assistance. Culbertson admitted to having one beer three hours prior. In the police report, Kunstmann indicated he smelled alcohol on Culbertson’s breath, but in the dash cam video, the two officers are heard on tape agreeing that they couldn’t smell alcohol. Kunstmann arrested Culbertson anyway, but didn’t realize at the time he was a former criminology professor, who would later contact an attorney.”
Thanks to his background and connections, Culbertson was able to secure an attorney and get the arresting officer arrested and thrown in jail himself. That wasn’t the first time Kunstmann had lied on his police report to justify an arrest. In another case, he had performed a field sobriety test on a woman who he then arrested for DUI. In his police report, he claimed that she was “belligerent and cussing” during the test. But when you watch the dash cam video, you find that not only was the woman perfectly compliant, she was completely sober, but he arrested her anyway.
So how many others have been falsely arrested for DUI who didn’t have the experience and connections that Culbertson had? No judge is going to question the police report. In a courtroom, it’s considered Gospel. Which is why officers feel at liberty to lie and embellish their reports. If you try to make your case that the police officer lied, the judge and the prosecutor will just claim that you’re mad because you got arrested. Even if you have an attorney, your best hope is often just to stay out of jail or pay a lower fine. Don’t bother trying to fight the cop; he’s immune. Kunstmann’s case is a rare glimpse of justice