Recent events around the nation involving allegations of excessive force by police with tragic results, has led to a call for officers to wear body cameras. Illinois responded with SB 1304, which was passed last week by the Illinois General Assembly and includes several provisions concerning how law enforcement interacts with the public. This Bill has gone to the Governor for his consideration. The Bill includes the Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act. This Act sets forth state-wide requirements for the use of body cameras by police. Among other things the Act details when the cameras must be activated, how long recordings must be preserved and how recordings may be used. The Act specifically addresses when body camera evidence may be used to discipline a police officer. The Act states that body camera recordings shall not be used to discipline law enforcement officers unless:
- A formal or informal complaint of misconduct has been made;
- A use of force incident has occurred;
- The encounter on the recording could result in a formal investigation under the Uniform Peace Officers’ Disciplinary Act; or
- As corroboration of other evidence of misconduct.
The Act further provides that the above limitations shall not be construed to limit or prohibit a law enforcement officer from being subject to an action that does not amount to discipline.
The Uniform Peace Officers’ Disciplinary Act defines a formal investigation as follows:
The process of investigation ordered by a commanding officer during which the questioning of an officer is intended to gather evidence of misconduct which may be the basis for filing charges seeking his or her removal, discharge or suspension in excess of 3 days.
Interested parties may want to provide input to the Governor as he considers SB 1304. Absent a qualifying situation as defined in the Act, any use of body camera video evidence in a police disciplinary action is prohibited.