Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $28,997)
As with many law enforcement agencies throughout our nation, the University of Illinois (UIPD) is working diligently to regain and restore public trust in the role and efficacy of law enforcement. Recent incidents of civil unrest within the cities of Champaign and Urbana, coupled with the national lens highlighting historical trends of police corruption and abuse of power, have contributed to the strained relations between police and the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect. Local law enforcement has addressed many of these issues by implementing changes in departmental policies that allow for greater transparency and stronger community relations. UIPD’s expansion of body-worn cameras (BWC) is one critical measure taken toward this reconciliation.
The University of Illinois campus lies between the two cities of Champaign and Urbana and has quickly become a nexus of commerce and education. The area struggles with a rising population of unsheltered and transient persons suffering from a range of conditions including substance use disorders and acute mental illness. The campus is situated amid impoverished communities currently plagued by violence related to illegal drug trafficking and gang activity. These forces have contributed to UIPD’s increased involvement in maintenance of the community and daily contact with many of those within it. While the nature of these encounters is often related to enforcement of laws, UIPD recognizes the necessity for departmental transparency and accountability which it feels will be enhanced with the use of additional BWCs.
Preliminary studies have shown BWC video has the capability to positively influence the behavior of police officers and citizens with whom they interact. Additionally, the ethical pressure exerted upon officers, complainants, witnesses, and suspects is largely supported by the fact that footage captured on BWC video is deemed admissible evidence in a court of law. As such, it is the aspiration of UIPD to acquire additional BWCs for all sworn officers in hopes the citizens of its jurisdiction may be better served by the transparency that BWCs offer. UIPD also hopes such measures will result in a reduction in the number of complaints filed against officers in the line of duty. Toward these aims, UIPD intends to enlist appropriate departmental policy regarding the implementation of BWCs and to provide officers with the highest quality training. Lastly, UIPD intends to monitor the effects BWCs on the performance of its officers and to maintain a detailed account of said data for future analysis.