Rockdale Police Chief Robert Dykstra recalled how a resident filed a complaint against one of his officers four years ago, accusing him of using inappropriate language.
The officer, however, was wearing a body camera and the footage showed he was behaving cordially, Dykstra said.
The Rockdale Police Department has used body cameras since 2013, and Dykstra said the devices have been useful in resolving complaints against officers.
“It really does knock out the he said, she said,” Dykstra said.
Despite its small size, the police department has been willing to spend the money for body cameras. Dykstra said the department has 11 officers and spends about $1,500 each for the cameras.
Officials from Rockdale’s larger neighbor Joliet are exploring having their officers use body cameras. Joliet Council member Jan Quillman, who heads the city’s public safety committee, said she believes a body camera program would reduce the number of resident complaints against officers and resolve conflicting accounts about officers’ conduct.
“At least, it will be on camera so that when they do a disciplinary investigation against the police officer, in case there’s a discrepancy or a lawsuit filed, it’s right there on video. It won’t be a he said, she said thing,” Quillman said.
Quillman said she doesn’t know if a body camera program would be too expensive, as there would have to be an investigation into the cost and to see if there are any grants to help pay for it. She said the cameras were brought up at a previous public safety meeting to “get the conversation going.”
Garland Mays, the Forest Park Neighborhood Council president, recommended at a July 16 City Council meeting that the police department use body cameras.
“I think it provides a safety net not only for the residents, [but] for the Joliet police officers and for the city as well,” Mays said. “It’s a huge investment but I think one that’s worth it.”
Mays’ comments came after an incident in which a prayer vigil outside a Joliet church was interrupted by police pursuing an ATV and a dirt bike. Joliet police said the vigil attendees threatened the officers, while the attendees denied that happened.
Dykstra said body cameras are a “great tool” compared with the videos that are usually released when residents have issues with officers.
“You get short snippets of a shaky iPhone video that doesn’t show the whole aspect,” he said.