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Macomb police chief: Body cameras proving to be ‘a valuable tool’

Macomb Interim Police Chief Jeff Hamer.
Rich Egger
Macomb Interim Police Chief Jeff Hamer.

Macomb police have been using body cameras for about two years. The department’s leader said they’ve proved beneficial.

Interim Chief Jeff Hamer said the cameras help officers document a scene, and they’re also helpful when conducting interviews at a scene, whether it’s with a victim, witness, or suspect.

“The body cameras are a valuable tool to collect evidence. We’ve found that the body camera footage is valuable in court,” Hamer said.

“I think from a documentation standpoint, evidence gathering, it’s by far one of the greatest technological advances for policing.”

He said body cams have been especially helpful in the investigation of high-profile cases such as homicides.

Officers can manually activate their camera. In addition, the cameras come on automatically in certain instances. For example, if the body cam is within Bluetooth range of the vehicle it’s synched with, the body cam and the dashboard cam will both start recording when the officer turns on the vehicle’s emergency lights.

Hamer said the cameras are advantageous to everyone.

“If you were the type of person that felt like the police needed to be watched and have the body cameras, it was a worthy cause because it certainly does allow police to police themselves and have that non-biased view,” Hamer said.

“But if you were a fan of police and wanted us to gather evidence on criminals or suspects, it certainly does that as well too.”

One of his biggest concerns is the cost of storing data recorded by the cameras. Departments are required to keep the videos for at least 90 days, and for 2 to 10 years in certain cases, such as pursuits, use of force, and major criminal cases.

He said the department currently uses servers, but is exploring Cloud-based storage options.

All of the department’s sworn personnel and its two community service officers wear the equipment. Neither officers nor administrators can delete video.

Hamer said the department was already quite familiar with recording in the field because it’s been using dashboard cameras in its vehicles for around 20 years.

A local campaign called “Because We Care” raised half the initial $66,000 cost of buying body cams for Macomb police.

The city paid the rest.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.