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Left in the Dark: The Failed Promise of Chicago Police Body Cameras

CHICAGO (CBS) — Marcus Smith arrived at the Pulaski Orange Line Station on Chicago's Southwest Side at about noon. It was Thanksgiving Day, 2017, and his mother was waiting for him in a parked car beneath the tracks.  

As the roar of the departing train echoed off the station's worn concrete walls, he spotted his mom's red Honda sedan.   

"I didn't feel unsafe when I pulled up," said Marcus' mom, Jacquelyn Smith. "I pulled up because I said, 'What better place to be parked than next to a cop car?'"  

An officer in that police car spotted Marcus, too.  

It happened fast. Marcus saw a gun in the officer's hand. He instinctively moved to get out of the way, assuming the officer had seen something behind him.  

"I'm thinking, okay, I just got bad luck here, I'm literally walking into the middle of the crossfire," Marcus said.  

He wasn't. Marcus quickly realized the officer, Eric Puszkiewicz, was pointing the gun at him. Jacquelyn, helpless as she watched from the driver's seat, said she knew Puszkiewicz was a trigger pull away from killing her son.  

"I knew any kind of movement, it was over," Jacquelyn said.  

Jacquelyn eventually convinced the officers that Marcus was her son, and Puszkiewicz holstered the gun. Marcus asked for Puszkiewicz's badge number, planning to make a complaint. And like so many who've been on the receiving end of police misconduct, Marcus assumed Puszkiewicz's body camera would show what happened -- the officers even told him it was recorded. He was wrong. 

About a month earlier, Puszkiewicz and his partner, Jose Lopez, were given body cameras, along with every other patrol officer in the eighth police district. 

By year's end, every patrol officer in the city was wearing a body camera.   

Since they were first unveiled in a limited pilot program in 2015, CPD championed the taxpayer-funded body cameras as a way to strengthen community trust. From the beginning, officials likened them to independent eyes on the street that could protect both officers and civilians.  

"We will continue [to] make investments that make our officers safer and build community trust," then-Superintendent Eddie Johnson was quoted as saying in a news release announcing the department's plan to expand body cameras to more officers.  

But what Marcus experienced on Thanksgiving Day happens frequently in Chicago. A CBS 2 analysis of the police department's own data reveals for the first time extensive failures by officers to use body cameras when they should. Tens of thousands of every day encounters were never recorded, leaving communities in the dark, and there's little evidence to show officers were disciplined.  

In a deeply segregated city, the neighborhood where a person is stopped by police also impacts whether there will be video evidence of what happened. 

And despite layers of oversight to ensure the program works, internal records reveal critical breakdowns in accountability, undermining CPD's promises that the technology would improve policing and public trust.  

Left in the Dark: The Failed Promise of Chicago Police Body Cameras by CBS Chicago on YouTube

Have you had an interaction with a Chicago Police officer that wasn't recorded on body camera? We want to hear from you. Contact us

The Rollout  

In January 2015, just a few months after the murder of Laquan McDonald by former CPD officer Jason Van Dyke, a small group of cops in a Northwest Side police district were the first in Chicago to wear body cameras on the job. 

The details of McDonald's murder remained hidden from the public, and the community's distrust of police — the product of decades of heavy-handed and discriminatory policing — was aggravated once more. 

As calls for transparency grew, police finally released dashcam video of the shooting in November 2015. It showed McDonald was moving away when Van Dyke shot him 16 times — directly contradicting CPD's false claim that McDonald was moving toward officers. 

"What was shown on that tape was absolutely despicable," William Calloway, an activist who fought for the video's release, said at a press conference at the time. "We feel that the Chicago Police Department as a whole needs a culture change." 

A month later, while protesters called for then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign over the city's efforts to keep the video hidden, CPD announced it was rolling out body cameras to more officers in districts on the city's South and West sides.  

Six months later, in July 2016, CPD Officer Jose Diaz fatally shot 18-year-old Paul O'Neal in the back as he fled police in the city's South Shore neighborhood. O'Neal was unarmed and driving a stolen car.  

O'Neal's shooting took place on the border between two police districts — one with body cameras and one without. He was killed in the third district, in which officers hadn't yet been issued cameras. Diaz and several other officers at the scene were from the neighboring fourth district, in which officers were given cameras that spring.  

That shooting was one of the first high-profile incidents in which officers had body cameras, and one of the first that raised questions about whether those officers were using them correctly. While the events leading up to O'Neal's shooting were captured on body camera, the shooting itself was not.  

Diaz was suspended for six months after O'Neal's death, in part for failing to activate his body camera. The city's Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) said he kicked and swore at O'Neal as he lay dying. That would come to be one of the only documented times CBS 2 could find an officer was disciplined for a body camera violation since the program began.  

"From Laquan McDonald to Paul O'Neal ... you need that footage in a lot of cases because it's your word against theirs," Calloway told CBS 2. "And that's how it's always been, until we started pulling out and rolling them footage."  

By late 2017, nearly every CPD officer was equipped with a body camera, except for specialized units including SWAT, some gang teams and so-called "saturation" teams, which maintain a presence in a neighborhood after a violent crime. 

The cameras cost the public more than $16 million since 2017, according to figures provided by a CPD spokesperson. The annual cost of the program has increased over the past three years, from just over $3 million in 2017 to more than $7 million in 2019, the spokesperson said. 

CPD even established an internal committee to ensure the program was working. Over the next few years, the group would document a pattern of problems, from officers not activating cameras to failures in accountability systems.  

The cameras became an essential part of officers' jobs, and, increasingly, the prosecution of people they arrested. Since the body camera rollout was completed in October 2017, the number of prosecutions that used body camera video has increased steadily, according to data from CPD and the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, which collects body camera prosecution data from police departments across the state.  

Made with Flourish

"Body cameras are helping improve the quality of service we provide to communities throughout Chicago," said then-First Deputy Superintendent Kevin Navarro in a news release announcing one of the program's several major rollouts that year.   

CPD wasn't unique. The department was among more than 7,600 law enforcement agencies across the country — nearly half the agencies in the U.S. — that established body camera programs, driven in large part by the police shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014. About a year later, in 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded $23 million to fund body cameras nationwide. 

In addition, the Illinois Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act, passed in 2016, establishes minimum standards for any law enforcement agency in Illinois that utilizes the technology. 

"The technology has been embraced by police officers and community groups alike," Navarro said, "because these tools are crucial in our efforts to strengthen community trust, promote officer safety, and ultimately make Chicago safer."  

Calloway had the same optimism. He said in the wake of the McDonald shooting, city officials promised him and the rest of the public that body cameras would help fix some of the department's long-standing issues. 

"We were promised a more reformed, racially sensitive, more cultured, more transparent, more constitutional, orderly police department," he said. "We're still not getting that. We're still not getting that to this day." 

A Silver Bullet?   

As thousands of police departments worked to equip officers with the technology, many of those departments expected the presence of cameras alone to impact officers' behavior, according to Eric Piza, an associate criminal justice professor at the City University of New York.   

"I think that's because we have a tendency to believe that the technology itself is going to fix whatever problem we're going to solve," said Piza, who previously worked with the Newark, NJ Police Department and has since authored dozens of published research papers on policing and crime. 

"And what we fail to realize in policing and elsewhere is it's actually the manner by which the humans use the technology that's largely going to determine whether the technology succeeds in solving the problems we want it to address."   

Piza cited the death of George Floyd, noting how the presence of a cell phone camera didn't stop officer Derek Chauvin from kneeling on Floyd's neck. Instead, Chauvin continued, and at one point looked directly at the person recording.  

"If we're expecting body cameras to by themselves solve our problems, and by themselves convince officers not to use force, convince citizens to not be aggressive, we're probably going to be disappointed," Piza said.   

"If we look at the research on video surveillance technologies broadly speaking, there was specific reason to anticipate that the mere presence of body cameras wouldn't be a silver bullet."  

Another expectation was there will be fewer accusations of police misconduct because officers know they're being recorded. But so far, studies on their effectiveness are mixed.   

A 2017 study on the Washington D.C. Police Department found the cameras didn't significantly impact uses of force, citizen complaints, police activity or court outcomes.  

"Body-worn cameras may have great utility in specific policing scenarios," the study's authors wrote, "but we cannot conclude from this experiment that they can be expected to produce large, department-wide improvements in outcomes."    

In contrast, a federally-funded study of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department suggested the opposite there. In the study, published in 2017, 400 randomly-selected police officers were given cameras. Researchers found those wearing cameras "generated significantly fewer complaints and use of force reports," and made more arrests and issued more citations, compared to those without cameras.  

The team also found the department saved money and time because there were fewer complaints against officers.  

Most recently, researchers at George Mason University examined 70 previous studies of body cameras worn through June 2018. Although they found officers supported using the technology and the cameras reduced the overall number of complaints against cops, the cameras alone didn't have the expected effect on the behaviors of officers or citizens, or the public's perception of the police.   

"Attention should also be paid to how the cameras can be used in police training, management and internal investigations to improve police performance, accountability and legitimacy in the community," said Christopher Koper, one of the authors. 

Professor Eric Piza on Body Camera Policies by CBS Chicago on YouTube

Piza believes a lack of consistent best practices for body camera policies drive those mixed results. While many officers are now required to wear them, there's no national standard for how the technology must be used.  

"The frustrating thing about the research evidence on body worn cameras is it's been pretty inconsistent," Piza said. "But kind of on a larger level, a list of best practices has eluded us. Frankly, we really don't know the best practices surrounding this particular technology."  

Because many policies are indirect and don't define when the cameras should be turned on, he said, officers often rely on their own discretion.  

Chicago, however, clearly outlines when officers should and shouldn't activate their cameras — an approach that all good policies should have, said David Harris, a law professor with the University of Pittsburgh who works with police departments across the country to help them improve their policies.   

"When I have advised police departments, I talk to them about this three-tiered approach," Harris said.  "When must it be turned on, when may it be turned on and when must it not be turned on. All of those things have to be taken into consideration, and they have to be taught as policy. As requirements, not as options."  

While CBS 2 found the Chicago Police Department checks many of those boxes for best practices — from an in-depth policy to an auditing process — the department's execution is often flawed.  

In some cases, officers who committed serious infractions evaded accountability.  In others, data shows there's no body camera video from interactions the policy says should've been recorded. 

"This is a problem that the Chicago Police Department has in common with police departments across the entire country," Harris said. "Body cameras were really sold to the public in 2014 and 2015 in the wake of the Ferguson tragedy and others of that era as a way to enhance public trust and police accountability to the public." 

Pattern of Failures

CPD policy says it is "mandatory, not discretionary" that the more than 7,600 patrol officers equipped with body cameras record all "law-enforcement-related activity" from beginning to end.  

The policy lists 17 specific situations officers must record, including calls for service, traffic and street stops, arrests, uses of force and more. Police said the policy is repeatedly taught in recruit and annual training. 

The cameras are relatively simple to operate. They constantly record everything in front of them, but only save 30 seconds of video at a time. To record an entire incident, the officer must double press the "event" button in the center of the camera.  

Diagram of the Axon Body 2 camera obtained by CBS 2 through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Officers are only allowed to deactivate the camera after an incident is over, or under certain limited circumstances, such as if the victim of a crime asks them to.  

Those rules were instituted in June 2017. Just five months later, Marcus Smith found himself staring at the barrel of Officer Eric Puszkiewicz's gun.  

While there is body camera video of their conversation after Puszkiewicz holstered his weapon, those tense moments in which he held Marcus at gunpoint either weren't recorded or properly saved.  

Once Puszkiewicz put away his gun, Marcus and Jacquelyn said he and his partner, Officer Jose Lopez, began doing "damage control." 

Puszkiewicz first told them he held Marcus at gunpoint because he matched the description of suspects in several robberies in the area. There had been reports of robberies near that CTA stop — the suspects were described as Black teenagers. Marcus was 33 years old at the time. 

Then, a few minutes later, he said Marcus was walking erratically — a claim Puszkiewicz repeated to COPA, which dismissed it as "tenuous at best."  

"I just got a gun pointed at me just for walking," Marcus said. "I was dressed up … it was like I was going to church dressed up for Sunday mass."  

Marcus Smith Recounts His Experience of Being Held at Gunpoint by a CPD Officer by CBS Chicago on YouTube

Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, CBS 2 obtained the limited body camera video that does exist after Puszkiewicz put his gun away.  Puszkiewicz can be heard telling Marcus and Jacquelyn body camera video would justify the incident.  

"We're going to give you everything you need," Puszkiewicz said, holding up a piece of paper. "I'm going to put my name on here, my badge number, everything you need to know. We've got recordings on everything, okay? They're going to see what we saw."  

In this video, obtained by CBS 2 through a FOIA request, the city blurred Marcus and Jacquelyn, and redacted several portions of the audio. 

Marcus Smith Body Camera Video by CBS Chicago on YouTube

The officers also tell Marcus and Jacquelyn their car's dashcam will document the incident. 

At the beginning of the video CBS 2 obtained, Puszkiewicz tells Lopez to "preserve" the dashcam video, and Lopez leans into the car to do just that. Similarly to body cameras, dashcams only save the video once they're activated.  

CBS 2 also asked for the dashcam video in its request for records of Marcus' stop, but COPA initially didn't release it. CBS 2 asked the Illinois Attorney General's office, which handles disputes between FOIA requesters and government agencies, to look into the request. 

A few weeks later, COPA attorney Kel'ley Garner sent CBS 2 the dashcam video. 

"Focused on getting you accurate copies of the body worn camera videos, we inadvertently omitted a response to your request for in-car camera footage," Garner said. 

The eight-minute dashcam video COPA sent CBS 2 begins around the same time the body camera videos do: after Puszkiewicz put away his gun. 

Marcus and Jacquelyn said they thought they'd be able to see the footage — after all, the officers told them repeatedly the video would justify what happened. But when they went to the eighth district police station later that day, Marcus said no one would show them the videos. 

They later made a complaint to COPA and were told someone would contact them in a few weeks. Eventually, a COPA employee told him there was no body camera video of Puszkiewicz pointing the gun at him, Marcus said. 

Marcus eventually filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Puszkiewicz and CPD. That case is pending.  

In the suit, Marcus's attorney, Deidre Baumann, alleged Puszciewicz and his partner "[destroyed] evidence, including body camera footage, to cover-up for their own and each other's misconduct." 

"It was definitely shady, that's for sure," Marcus said. "It definitely doesn't put any trust with the CPD or just the police department in general because at the rate everything is going all around the world [the police are] pretty much decorated mafia at this point." 

Marcus and Jacquelyn said never saw any of the video that does exist until CBS 2 showed it to them more than three years after the incident.  

A few minutes into the video, Marcus says to Puszkiewicz "there's no remorse from you," before Puszkiweicz cuts him off, saying "I have no remorse at all because I'm doing my job." 

In its report, obtained by CBS 2, COPA said the officer and his partner were both wearing cameras, but "the videos do not depict the officers' initial approach" in which Puszkiewicz pointed a gun at Marcus.  

COPA recommended Puszkiewicz be suspended for 10 days for pointing his gun at Marcus, but not for body camera-related violations.  

More than a year after Marcus first filed his complaint, labor relations arbitrator George Roumell decided Puszkiewicz's actions were justified, and that "there is no reason to mar the record of an Officer of this caliber as revealed by his 11-year record with the Department."   

That record includes two incidents in which Puszkiewicz and another officer allegedly illegally entered two people's apartments and, in one case, knocked a woman to the ground without provocation, according to court records. Lawsuits related to those two incidents cost the city nearly $100,000.   

Nearly three years after the incident, on Oct. 27, 2020, CPD said the disciplinary case was formally closed. Roumell's decision stands, a spokesperson said, meaning the incident won't be included in Puszkiewicz's official disciplinary file. 

While the incident with Marcus was the first time Puszkiewicz was found responsible for a misconduct complaint, he'd already been the subject of eight other allegations — more than 74 percent of other officers, according to data from the Invisible Institute, a nonprofit which has compiled the most comprehensive CPD misconduct database available to the public. 

Marcus said body camera footage could've provided an independent glimpse into what happened, which he describes as being stopped for "walking while Black." Now, he said, it's his word versus police.  

"I can only imagine what would've happened if my mom wasn't there," Marcus said.  

Marcus added the expectation should be clear.  

"[Puszciewicz's body camera] should've been rolling before he took the gun out if he knew he was going to have the gun drawn," he said. 

CPD didn't respond to questions for Puszkiewicz and Lopez. 

What happened to Marcus wasn't the first or the last time CPD officers would be accused of improperly using body cameras. While there's evidence the department has opened investigations into body camera-related violations, it's unclear how often that happens. 

The department can say how often body cameras are activated – 11.7 million times since the program's inception – but it doesn't separately track violations of the body camera policy.  

"I think it speaks to the current culture of the Chicago Police Department," Calloway said. "They have no accountability, still. Even after Jason Van Dyke, post-Laquan McDonald, it's still a culture of lack of accountability." 

When CBS 2 requested documents showing discipline through a FOIA request, CPD said they don't separately track body camera issues in their disciplinary system.  

In order to find body camera-related discipline, the department said, they would have to search every file in which a potential violation could have occurred. That information can only be found deep in the narratives of hundreds of thousands of police reports, and would be too time-consuming for the department to search, a spokesperson said.  

The police department told CBS 2 officers have been disciplined for violations of the body camera policy, but couldn't say how often. That discipline is sometimes verbal and isn't always formally documented. Sometimes, a spokesperson said, the discipline is progressive, beginning with a warning on a first infraction. 

By searching federal civil rights lawsuits and COPA summary reports posted by the Invisible Institute, CBS 2 was able to identify at least 10 documented cases between 2016 and 2018 in which officers allegedly failed to turn on their body cameras, turned them on late or turned them off too soon.   

In five of those cases, officers who used unnecessary force or profane language toward civilians turned off their body cameras during the interaction. In one case, an officer was found to have illegally searched a person's car after turning off his body camera.   

Unequal Transparency 

These violations occurred despite a clear policy saying the cameras need to be turned on almost all the time. This includes during routine "investigatory stops" — the same type of law enforcement activity Marcus Smith was the subject of on Thanksgiving Day.   

When filling out an investigatory stop report, CPD officers must indicate whether it was recorded on body camera. Because CPD policy says those stops must be recorded, the reports provide one of the best pictures of how often officers are using body cameras when they should.  

CBS 2 obtained data on more than 340,000 of those stops between the start of 2018 — the first full year all patrol officers had body cameras — and June 30, 2020.  

More than 62,000 stops during that period didn't have body camera video, the data showed. 

About half of the interactions that weren't recorded involved police officers who are not required by policy to wear body cameras, including those on specialized teams.  

In order to find out how many stops were potential policy violations, CBS 2 isolated stops made by cops who would normally wear body cameras. It shows about 34,000 stops — roughly 10 percent — were made by officers not assigned to gang, gun or saturation teams. 

Since the time all patrol officers were given cameras, stops captured on body camera by officers who normally wear them increased steadily, from about 86 percent at the start of 2018 to more than 92 percent by June 2020. 

Made with Flourish

Still, the total number of investigatory stops where video doesn't exist may not show the full picture. It doesn't include stops where some of the video is missing. In Marcus Smith's case, Puszkiewicz indicated there was body camera video even though the most critical moments either weren't recorded or weren't properly saved.  

CBS 2 found disparities in the recordings, too. If a person is stopped in the South or West sides of the city — often predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhoods — it's less likely there will be body camera video.   

Made with Flourish

"As far as our work from fighting for Laquan, I think that we look back and have we made some substantive progress? Of course," Calloway said. "But this falls short of the goal mark, absolutely. 

"Tens of thousands of stops undocumented throughout the city of Chicago of Black people. That's not transparency," Calloway continued. "That's not the transparency I fought for. That's not the transparency that many organizers, activists and police reformers all across the city fought for." 

Piza said the reasons there's no video in so many cases overall can vary, from officers being lackadaisical in turning cameras on, to technological malfunctions, to an in-progress crime which may not have been safe or feasible for an officer to turn on their camera.  

"If you have a situation like that, an obvious next question is, why are so many instances lacking body camera footage?" Piza said.  

"It's either a logistical problem or it's an officer problem. But without understanding more about the actual events, you're not able to diagnose which one it is."   

Craig Futterman, a civil rights attorney with the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic at University of Chicago, said he was shocked – but not surprised – by CBS 2's findings. He is among the attorneys who previously forced sweeping reforms through a 2019 federal consent decree, a legal agreement after the government found a pattern of excessive force by Chicago police officers.  

"It's not surprising in the context of a department that has engaged in a pattern and practice of abuse and excessive force," Futterman said. "Particularly against Black and Latino folks." 

He explained the issues date back to when the department first began using dashboard cameras in police cars.  

"[CBS 2's findings] document something that's sadly been consistent in CPD's history and something that the consent decree is designed to change," Futterman said. "But [the findings] document a reality that despite the consent decree, despite these reports and investigations...CPD continues at alarming rates to refuse, or fail to record, stops of people, citizens on the street." 

The data CBS 2 obtained does not list the reason for why video didn't exist in these specific cases.  When asked, the department couldn't explain why, in each instance, there was no video. A spokesperson said police do not track that information separately, and it would require them to sift through the narratives of thousands of reports.  

The department also couldn't say whether each incident was investigated.  

"[It] speaks volumes about the values of an institution, and institutions look at and measure what [they] care about," Futterman said. "And it is inexcusable not to be able to answer the basic questions you asked. It shows a lack of care." 

Futterman also said the findings raise questions not only about what other types of instances Chicago police officers could be failing to properly use their body cameras, but also if supervisors are checking.  

"Unless and until officers are held accountable for violating people's rights, for violating these policies," Futterman said, "they will continue to abuse the most vulnerable among us with impunity." 

Calloway said the data shows CPD still has a long way to go.  

"The whole city should be livid with this information you're giving out right now," Calloway said. "It disgusts me, all of this work that so many of us have done … this work has benefitted everybody else except the people that we was doing it for."  

Tracking Video — And Solutions  

Experts recommend departments regularly review video footage to ensure officers follow the policy. Too often, they say, police review video only when a citizen files a complaint against an officer, or if an officer uses force. 

"I would argue that if that's the only time police are reviewing the footage, they're missing out on a really important opportunity to learn quite a bit about how their officers engage in the public," Piza said, adding he believes it's just as important to view positive interactions.  

"If you're only going to look at use of force events, then you're not going to learn anything about events that did not lead to force."  

Piza's perspective stems from a study he and his colleagues are currently conducting with the Newark Police Department. Over the last year, they've been viewing all the department's body camera video where officers used force, as well similar interactions where officers didn't. 

"That's when my lightbulb kind of went off, and I was like, oh, if police figured out how to actually do this on their own, there's a lot that they can learn about how their officers interact with the public," Piza said.   

CPD's policy does require those kinds of reviews. According to the directive, watch operations lieutenants must review one randomly selected body worn camera recording on their respective watch each day to ensure officers follow the policy. It is their job, the policy notes, to "ensure close and effective supervision."  

Still, reports compiled by CPD's Body Worn Camera Evaluation Committee – tasked with overseeing the program – show the department knew as early as 2018 that some supervisors weren't checking.  

Made up of 10 members of the department, the committee must meet quarterly to ensure the program is working. It is then required to share recommendations with the Superintendent. The committee was criticized by the Chicago Inspector General for failing to meet twice in 2017— the same year the technology was rolled out to all patrol officers.   

CPD attempted to shield the committee's documents from public view. CBS 2 only obtained the committee's final reports after a months-long public records battle.  

CBS 2 first filed a FOIA request for the documents in June 2019. Police denied the request one month later, claiming the records were internal audits not subject to public release.  

CBS 2 then reworded and refiled the request. After nearly four months, with repeated delays by CPD, the department denied the request again.   

CBS 2 appealed to the Illinois Attorney General's Office (AG), which oversees FOIA violations. During the AG's review, police acknowledged the records were public all along. The department finally released the records in December.  

The records reveal how, month after month, the committee documented numerous instances where both supervisors failed to do what was required. In many cases, lieutenants didn't watch the correct number of videos every month — an issue mentioned in nearly every report.  

A review of March 2018 compliance, for example, found patrol units in only three of CPD's 22 districts were complying with the random video reviews, according to the committee's reports.  

The problem persisted a year later. In its April 2019 report, the group noted eight police units were not in full compliance with the random reviews "since the inception of the program." 

"In most instances," the report said, "the number of videos viewed (on a particular watch) if any, were in single digit numbers."  

In November of 2019, nearly two years after every patrol officer was equipped with a body camera, the committee met again. Their reports from that meeting raised questions about whether information was being documented properly or even accurately by police supervisors. 

According to the records, some reports signed by supervisors incorrectly stated officers complied with the policy when they had not. 

"Reports by Commanders are stating the officers are in compliance with the BWC policy however this is not completely accurate as indicated in their reports," the document said. 

Another observation by the committee in the same report called for "a better means of documenting" viewed videos because "often the lieutenants [sic] writing is illegible." 

In its first meeting in 2020, the committee reviewed body camera usage from the final three months of 2019. In October, 60 percent of districts failed to review the required number of videos, the report said. Only 9 out of the 22 districts fully complied. 

Multiple reports noted some lieutenants even overlapped and viewed the same videos.  

These issues continued even after Chicago's Inspector General issued its own report on compliance with the body camera program in July 2019. The report alleged lieutenants were choosing shorter videos and, in some cases, choosing to watch videos from officers they believed were already complying with the policy.  

This "has created a risk that [lieutenants] are reviewing a biased sample" of recordings, the IG's report said. 

"If the state of CPD's compliance with its body-worn camera video review policies is substantially the same as it was over a year ago, that's a problem both with respect to this issue and for what it says about the pace of reform," Deputy Inspector General for Public Safety Deborah Witzburg said in a statement to CBS 2. 

"Body-worn cameras are critical tools for accountability and for evidence collection; their effective use benefits police work, the oversight of it, and the public's confidence and trust in it—and that bears directly on the legitimacy of policing. If, however, the Department is not managing the body-worn camera program effectively, then it risks these critical tools being—or being seen as—nothing more than high-tech vest ornaments" 

While CPD's decision to build auditing into its processes  aligns with experts' recommendations, they recognize reviewing body camera video is a labor-intensive process for lieutenants that could require hours of review in addition to their daily duties.   

Professor David Harris on Body Camera Policies by CBS Chicago on YouTube

"I think a lot of people don't understand that the police department in any city of any size is actually managed on a day-to-day basis by the middle managers," Harris said. "It is managed by the sergeants and the lieutenants — those people run your department because they have front-line supervision responsibility."  

Piza said it may not be realistic for lieutenants to review hours of video every day, especially if there are videos from different officers who responded to one incident.  

"You can see quickly how this can snowball into something that's just frankly unreasonable to expect an officer to do on top of all of the other responsibilities that the police [department] has given to that officer," Piza said. "These people may not be able to do the level of footage review to proactively identify either problems before they become big problems, or to identify situational factors that might promote good police work."  


"But the department needed a mechanism to ensure officers were using the cameras — and not just wearing them," the report said. 

Murphy, who led the reforms, said it started with a taking a one-day snapshot grading officers on their body camera usage on every call.   

The report said informal reviews revealed "insufficient" body camera use, which prompted NOPD to create a system that incorporates body camera usage as a performance metric to hold officers and supervisors accountable.   

"It's really about performing, not just training and policy," Murphy said. "It's a massive investment in transparency. We have to make sure they're being turned on."  

"But the department needed a mechanism to ensure officers were using the cameras — and not just wearing them," the report said. 

Murphy, who led the reforms, said it started with a taking a one-day snapshot grading officers on their body camera usage on every call.   

The report said informal reviews revealed "insufficient" body camera use, which prompted NOPD to create a system that incorporates body camera usage as a performance metric to hold officers and supervisors accountable.   

"It's really about performing, not just training and policy," Murphy said. "It's a massive investment in transparency. We have to make sure they're being turned on."  

NOPD instituted monthly audits and hired four performance auditors. They were tasked with reviewing body camera footage, compiling officer activity reports for a given day and determining whether footage existed according to the department's policy.   

The department then published the results as a "Body-Worn Camera Scorecard" monthly. These scorecards visualized compliance scores and highlighted deficiencies across units so leadership could pinpoint and address problems quickly.  

The New Orleans Police Department created scorecards tracking body camera performance metrics.

Murphy said the scorecard system was neither resource intensive nor costly, and allowed the department to track performance effectively. 

The system also tracks any violations for each officer to allow the department to catch any patterns. Any time an officer was investigated connected to a body camera usage issue, it would be coded as such, Murphy said. 

"Auditing and discipline are two essential ingredients," Murphy said, adding it's critical for police departments to define performance expectations and "hold people accountable, and do it frequently and precisely."  

As a result of these efforts, body camera use increased from 85 percent to 96 percent over the course of two months. The article cited discipline in connection with noncompliance could have, in part, played a factor in the increase.  

"Through clear and repeated measurements," the report said, "the Department institutionalized the use of [body cameras] to promote accountability, professionalism, and transparency."  

Murphy believes the impact also stems from leadership communicating the importance of the program to officers. They made it clear there would be systematic audits, and performance measurements were focal points of management meetings.  

"It is now a supervisor and command line issue. It's beyond officers," he said. "It's making performance measures meaningful on all levels. It has to mean something to everyone."  

No Evidence, No Accountability

In the Chicago Police Department, lieutenants are required to fill out a report after reviewing the video. That report indicates whether the officer used a body camera and if there were any policy violations. This means the department can track patterns across officers and districts based on the random spot checks.  

CPD denied CBS 2's request for the reports filled out by lieutenants, claiming they were part of an audit and therefore not subject to release under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. 

And while the committee's meeting in May did note improvements with lieutenants spot-checking videos – between 77 and 95 percent of districts complied in the first three months of 2020 – police supervision during the summer's protests tells a different story.  

In the midst of civil unrest, some police officers were criticized for how they handled the protests and were even accused of misusing their cameras. In others, police said some protestors assaulted officers. 

At the same time, lieutenants failed to ensure officers were complying with the body camera program at a critical time. In June, for example, only four out of 22 districts viewed the required number of videos, according to the committee's final report from its September meeting.  

"The reason there's a rule like that — for lieutenants to randomly review body camera footage at least once a day — is so that there is knowledge down the chain that a lieutenant could be looking at exactly what you did," Harris said. "If that's not done, then your supervisory system has failed." 

But in these two years' worth of meetings, the committee's final reports never mention specific instances where officers failed to activate their cameras and what, if any, action was taken by the department.  

In October 2018, the committee vaguely acknowledged "units are aware of officers not in compliance with the [body camera] order and state that corrective action has been taken," but didn't explain what "not in compliance" meant, or what that corrective action was, when asked for clarification by CBS 2. 

In its report sixth months later, in April 2019, the committee continued to allude to patterns of body camera violations. They repeated a statement from the previous report that "units are aware of officers not in compliance," and again asserted "corrective action" had been taken. 

When CBS 2 again pressed the police department for answers on how often officers are disciplined for body camera violations, a spokesperson said the department doesn't track that information separately and would have to review thousands of incident report narratives. 

"If that's the case, we either have a police department that is perfect and never requires any disciplinary follow-up and is always doing it right, or — I think more likely — is that they're simply not putting any discipline into practice when the situation would call for it," Harris said.  

The vague mentions of body camera violations in the committee's reports never mentioned repeated publicized incidents, including some that involved police misconduct allegations. With no video, police and the public were left without valuable evidence.   

In February 2019, CPD Officer Adolfo Bolanos shot and killed 17-year-old Michael Elam, Jr. Elam, who was unarmed, was in the back seat of a car that police attempted to stop in an unmarked cruiser. 

As Elam got out of the car and started to run, Bolanos shot him multiple times, according to a federal lawsuit filed by Elam's family. Bolanos' body camera wasn't on. 

It's unclear if Bolanos, or Joseph Brennan, then a CPD captain who told a lieutenant who arrived after the shooting to turn off his body camera, were ever disciplined for body camera violations. Brennan was promoted to Commander of the 4th police district on July 15.  

When asked whether the incident resulted in any body camera-related misconduct allegations for either officer, COPA spokesperson Ephraim Eaddy said in an email "the investigation remains open and to provide any details would compromise the integrity of the investigation and be a violation of confidentiality." 

Under Illinois law, COPA can't release records on the case because Elam was a juvenile when he was killed.

Some officers still aren't required to wear body cameras — in particular, officers on specialized teams that often handle CPD's most dangerous operations.    

On Aug. 9, 2020, two of those officers responded to a call of a person with a gun in the city's Englewood neighborhood. They were assigned to the city's new "community safety team," created less than a month prior to combat the wave of gun violence that swept the city in June.  

To create the community safety team, CPD combined officers from three previous specialized teams — none of which required cops to wear body cameras, even though most patrol officers have been wearing them for years.  

Those assigned to the new community safety team didn't have body cameras either.   

CPD said the man, 20-year-old Latrell Allen, shot at the officers before they shot him five times. Allen's family, and a neighbor who claimed he witnessed the shooting, gave conflicting accounts in interviews with CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini. 

CPD said the man, 20-year-old Latrell Allen, shot at the officers before they shot him five times. Allen's family, and a neighbor who claimed he witnessed the shooting, gave conflicting accounts in interviews with CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini.   

Mother Of Man Shot By Police Says He Had No Gun by CBS Chicago on YouTube

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting misinformation that Allen was actually an unarmed 15-year-old spread online. Body camera video might have cleared up the confusion if the officers had been required to wear them. Instead, COPA was forced to ask the public to share any video that might exist. 

Weeks after Allen was shot, COPA released eight different body camera videos, all from officers who arrived after the shooting, along with hours of video from nearby businesses. They show an injured Allen fleeing police and later surrendering inside his home. None of the videos COPA released show the shooting itself.  

The city said they'll finally equip officers on specialized teams with body cameras in 2021

"It's one thing to equip all your patrol officers with those, and that's good, that's a good thing, we want that," Harris said. "But in point of fact, the vast majority of their interactions with the public don't go bad, force isn't used. There are low — not nonexistent but low — risks involved in that job.  

"Something like a special enforcement team, SWAT team, a raid team, that's where there's higher risk," Harris continued. "To say that those teams won't wear body cameras seems to me to have it backward." 

The Chicago Police Department didn't agree to interview for this story, but a spokesperson provided the following statement, in part: 

"The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is fully committed to transparency and accountability, which is evidenced in the more than 11.7 million times officers have activated their body-worn cameras (BWCs) and captured video since the inception of the program. 

"As CPD works to improve safety and build trust in every community across the city, we recognize the importance of recording and documenting police interactions. BWC technology is essential in this effort, which is why all District-assigned field officers have been fully equipped with the cameras since 2017.  

"Additionally, Superintendent [David] Brown made it a priority to ensure officers assigned to CPD's citywide Community Safety Team and Critical Incident Response Team were equipped with BWCs this summer." 

The statement added the department "continues to monitor and review" officer compliance, and will investigate and discipline officers who violate the policy. 

Regardless of whether officers violated the policy or were exempt from wearing body cameras, CBS 2 identified incidents in which the consequence was the same: a lack of footage that could have shined a light on alleged police abuse.  

In more than a dozen cases in the last two years, CBS 2 exposed a pattern of CPD officers raiding the homes of innocent families. And in nearly every case, at least some or all video didn't exist when people challenged police accounts of what happened.   

In 2017, the home of then-9-year-old Peter Mendez was wrongly raided by police. The first two officers through the door and a sergeant failed to properly use or activate their body cameras. The family accused those officers of pointing guns at them. 

Less than a year later, police wrongly raided another family in the Woodlawn neighborhood. Toni Tate had just changed into her pajamas when officers broke down her door and pointed guns at her two daughters.  

Some body camera footage exists, but officers turned off their cameras before the raid was over. At one point, a sergeant can be heard ordering officers to "kill" their cameras — an apparent policy violation.   

In 2019, Chicago Police wrongly raided the home of the Archie family three different times in four months. Body camera video from the second raid, in April, shows officers pointing guns at children. A teenager can be heard begging police "Please do not shoot me, please."  

There is no body camera video from the third raid. 

And, most recently, in February, CBS 2 uncovered apparent violations during the botched raid on yet another innocent family. In a federal lawsuit, Sharon Lyons alleged none of the 16 plainclothes officers who raided her Back of the Yards home was wearing a body camera, except for the patrol officers who came to the home afterward.  

That's despite a new departmental policy that requires at least two body cameras be activated during the execution of a search warrant.  

For CPD, the use of body cameras is not only required by policy, but also by its consent decree. 

McDonald's death spurred the legal action and agreement, which was ultimately reached in 2019. It outlines specific mandates for the use of body cameras, including that the department must "impose progressive discipline, training or remedial action on officers who do not comply" with the directive.    

CPD's policy also says any officer "who knowingly fails to comply" will be subject to discipline, training or other action. It doesn't specify what that discipline would be.  

"The department must be prepared to actually hold officers accountable," Harris added. "If they do not turn on cameras when they're required to do so, that's got to be taken seriously, and, you know, if it generates a reprimand, if it generates a demotion, whatever it generates, those things have to be real."  

Last July, in response to the Inspector General's findings then-Superintendent Eddie Johnson told CBS 2, "there will be some accountability with them," referring to the lieutenants who failed to spot-check body camera video. He declined to say if anyone would face suspensions or disciplinary action as a result.    

In a letter to the IG, CPD's General Counsel Dana O'Malley acknowledged the need for improvements and said the city would work with Axon — the company that manufactures the body cameras — to automate components of the random review process and incorporate it in training.  

The department also said it planned to implement a dashboard to indicate if supervisors are conducting reviews as required. In addition, police said audits were added to the process and commanders will be assessed on compliance every two weeks.  

More than a year later, the police department said it's taking steps toward making these changes but hasn't completed them.  

Futterman said police accountability starts with the department following its own policy – then following through.  

"Cameras are only as good as they're used," Futterman said. "If they're not used, if no one's looking, if no one's tracking, then you're spending a lot of money for a tool that's just for show, and it's a sham." 

An "Unfair Labor Practice?"  

Another factor that could be complicating CPD's body camera discipline is the longstanding negotiations with the police union, Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). 

In 2019, CPD repeatedly deferred CBS 2's questions about discipline to the FOP. Neither police nor the FOP would explain why disciplinary information hinges on the city's contract negotiations with the union.  

When contacted by CBS 2 for comment on this story, the current FOP president, John Catanzara, hung up. He didn't respond to a list of questions sent via email. 

An official notice from CPD promises to rescind all discipline against officers who misused body cameras.

Historically, the FOP has not held back its criticism of the body camera program. In a 2019 phone interview with CBS 2, then-FOP President Kevin Graham called body cameras an "unfair labor practice."   

Two years prior, in January 2017, the FOP made that same argument to the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which handles disputes between unions and employers. Just as body cameras were being rolled out, the FOP filed a complaint with the board that alleged CPD had failed to bargain with the union over the effects of the body camera policy, including discipline related to violations. 

Judge Anna Hamburg-Gal agreed with the police union and ordered CPD to bargain with union leaders over body camera discipline. CPD has been without a contract since 2017, however, so the results of that bargaining are unclear. 

In her decision, Hamburg-Gal said CPD had to bargain over the body cameras "because the [body cameras] impact employee discipline, safety and privacy," in large part because they "impose new and different camera activation requirements, which may likewise present opportunities for discipline if an officer fails to comply with them."  

The Chicago FOP's stance on accountability within the body camera program is at odds with a bold statement Mayor Lori Lightfoot made in June. In response to reports that officers were covering their badges or turning off their body cameras while policing protests in the wake of George Floyd's death, Lightfoot said officers would be stripped of their powers if they violated the policy.    

"If you are one of those officers, we will find you, we will identify you, and we will strip you of your police powers. Period," Lightfoot said. "We are not going to tolerate this in our city. You are demeaning all of your colleagues who are working their tails off on 12-hour shifts to keep our city safe. Shame on you. Shame on you."    

In a statement, a CPD spokesperson said they can't comment on the FOP's grievance because the case is still pending before the Labor Relations Board, but added "the Department maintains that we have the authority to discipline for violations of Department Policy and Procedures regarding [body cameras]." 

Lightfoot's office didn't make the mayor available for an interview on this story. A spokesperson didn't provide an on-the-record statement until more than a month after CBS 2 first contacted them.

Many details in that statement contained information CBS 2 had previously reported, and didn't address numerous questions about this story, including the racial disparities in stops and lack of accountability.

The Mayor's spokesperson said CPD's Office of Constitutional Policing and Reform is working with the consent decree monitoring team "to create a strengthened plan to ensure compliance among all officers." That plan, the spokesperson said, would emphasize complete recording of incidents from start to finish.

The statement didn't provide specifics on what the plan might entail.

Read Lightfoot's full statement here

The now-expired contract with the city predates body cameras. However, the FOP holds a tight grip on how officers are investigated and disciplined for misconduct. 

 Officers can't be disciplined for anonymous complaints, can't be disciplined for the number of times they use force and are allowed to view video evidence connected to misconduct allegations prior to making their statements.  

"While there is a mass movement for greater accountability, and addressing racism and civil rights violations by police, you also have a mass mobilization led and organized predominately by the police union," Futterman said, "which is a supremely powerful political force in Chicago and beyond, to deny the reality of police misconduct and to evade external scrutiny." 

He also believes decades of a "protect your own" police mentality continues to contribute to a lack of accountability, and a culture change is dependent on leadership, he said. 

"What can you do to stop this?" Futterman said. "Actually hold officers accountable. Who has the power to do that? CPD and city leadership have the power to do that." 

Lightfoot has sparred with the union since she took office. In 2019 she was caught on a hot microphone calling then-FOP vice president Pat Murray a "clown." In a June interview with NPR, she acknowledged police union contracts have been "a significant problem and challenge in getting the reforms necessary."  

More recently, in September, the Chicago Sun-Times reported the police union walked out of contract talks after Lightfoot demanded 17 pages of disciplinary reforms during new contract negotiations. 

These issues also date back to a 2017 DOJ investigation into CPD, which found the city often fails to investigate misconduct complaints. Some investigations are even ignored, the DOJ's report said, in part based on "procedural hurdles in City agreements with its unions."  

The DOJ also supported the city's decision to equip all patrol officers with body cameras. It encouraged the city and union to collaborate on policies and develop accountability systems to ensure the technology is effective, "both as preventing misconduct and exonerating officers where they are wrongly accused."  

Chicago isn't alone in wrestling for control with its police union. Experts say it's common.  

"A city finding itself unable to give the raises to police officers that union members would like, instead has given them pieces — and sometimes significant pieces — of control over the disciplinary process," Harris said of departments nationwide. 

In June, in response to George Floyd's killing, the Washington D.C. Council passed temporary emergency legislation which, in part, would remove the police disciplinary process from the city's agreement with the police union, the Washington Post reported.  

"Arguably one of the most important provisions ... It will enable quicker and more effective discipline," Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told the Post. The union "objected vehemently" to the legislation overall, the report said. 

Harris said police unions, while important for ensuring officer protections, can also stand in the way of accountability. 

"I'm not against unions, not at all," Harris said. "I think strong unions that can bargain for job security, safety, good pay, good benefits, all to the good, and for public employees too. But the police unions have taken a lot of control over the disciplinary process and they've used it, often times, to protect their worst actors and keep them on the job." 

While It's unclear how the Illinois Labor Relations Board decision impacted discipline going forward in Chicago, and although there's evidence the police department opened investigations into incidents where officers violated the policy, it's unclear whether any were disciplined directly related to that issue.  

When it comes to use of force incidents, however, a June 18, 2020 report of CPD's compliance with the consent decree raises more questions about whether CPD disciplines officers who fail to properly use body cameras. 

Last year, the team that monitors the consent decree reviewed more than 1,300 police use of force reports. About 1 in 6 had "problems with body-worn camera use," according to the team's report.  

"There is a persistent problem with the proper use of body-worn cameras," the report said, including officers turning cameras on too late or turning them off too early.  

The report went on to say "CPD took action to address these problems," but the team couldn't determine whether any officers were disciplined. Instead, the report said, the officers were either "debriefed" or retrained on body camera use.   

The monitoring team requested a long list of records from CPD, including "evidence of reprimands or other remedial steps," but CPD did not provide the information to the monitoring team "at the conclusion of this reporting period," the report said.   

"You've got a system in which there are rules, but there are no consequences to violating those rules," Harris said. "And that means that officers will know that they can ignore those rules as they like."  

Using body camera compliance as an officer performance measure is one successful method Piza has seen with other departments, including the NOPD's scorecard system.   

NOPD has fewer officers than CPD required to wear body cameras — around 1,200 compared to CPD's more than 7,600. However, Piza said he believes any police agency with sufficient resources can build a system of accountability without necessarily needing discipline. But it starts from the top.   

"It's as simple as communication to the police force that this is important to leadership, and it's something that's going to be systematically measured," he said.   

Lack of trust 

Also at the core of the consent decree is the department's responsibility to improve public trust.  Specifically, the decree underscores the correlation between community policing and the department's ability to solve crimes.   

"Strong partnerships between CPD and the community enable law enforcement to build and strengthen trust, identify community needs, and produce positive policing outcomes," the decree says.   

CPD often relies on community tips that help their investigations, and officials have repeatedly asked for the public's help with solving crimes in news conferences and on social media. After 11 people were shot and killed during one weekend in July, new Supt. David Brown stressed the importance of building trust and even promised, "You'll see community policing on steroids in this department."   

Less than a month later, police made an arrest in the shooting death of a 9-year-old boy, crediting tips from the community.   

"This is the best example of a community coming forward," Brown said after the arrest.   

But generally, CPD struggles to make arrests in the most serious crimes. In 2019, CPD only made an arrest in 28 percent of homicides, and in 16 percent of other violent crimes, including aggravated assault, aggravated battery, sexual assault and robbery, according to publicly-available data analyzed by CBS 2.  

Made with Flourish

Since 2015, the Chicago Police Department has touted its body camera program as a tool that would improve policing, protect both the public and police, and increase transparency. Since then, and when used properly, the tools have given light to misconduct and documented acts of heroism by officers across the country in ways that may not otherwise have been known.  

Still, in many cases, video didn't exist when it should have, which experts say chips away at public trust.  

"It's also resulted in the inability of CPD to address intracommunity violence and crime because there is a lack of trust and faith," Futterman said. "What's ultimately at stake is our safety – public safety – in Chicago." 

Marcus Smith can attest to that lack of trust. He is still shaken by the moment he said police threatened him with a gun, and there's no body camera video of those moments to prove his claims. He said it continues to affect how he views police today. 

"Even when I see a [police] car parked, I'm like, okay, it's about to go down here," Marcus said. "It's a sigh of relief when I get in my apartment. That's literally the feeling I have every time [I see a police car] after that incident." 

The eroding trust between CPD and the community was the focus of CBS 2's half-hour documentary, "[un]warranted." It followed the lives of innocent families after their homes were wrongly raided by Chicago Police officers, many of which were not captured on body camera video. 

"It's evidence that aligns with that I've seen in the entire consent decree process, which is a check-the-box approach," Futterman said of CPD's body camera program. "Without actually embracing or implementing, or using the consent decree as a chance to get better, to improve … to make people safer." 

Experts say a department's approach to its body camera program is a critical piece to strengthening the public's perception of police and its willingness to interact with officers.    

"If this was supposed to make things better along the spectrum of public trust without which police cannot do the thorough job we want them to do," Harris said, "anything that further destroys it is a big loss. It takes a long time to build public trust, you can lose it very easily."  

What makes a good body camera policy? by CBS Chicago on YouTube

Research shows that's the case in some cities after high profile cases of police abuse.  

A 2016 study by the American Sociological Review analyzed how one of Milwaukee's "most publicized cases of police violence against an unarmed black man" -- the beating of Frank Jude -- impacted resident 911 calls to police. Over a year later, calls for service decreased by 22,200. More than half of the total loss in calls, or 56 percent, occurred in Black communities. 

"...We find that residents of Milwaukee's neighborhoods, especially residents of black neighborhoods, were far less likely to report crime after Jude's beating was broadcast," the authors wrote.  

They continued, "Police misconduct can powerfully suppress one of the most basic forms of civic engagement: calling 911 for matters of personal and public safety." 

Milwaukee isn't alone. Six years after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, cities across the country are grappling with the aftermath of civilian deaths at the hands of police.  

Calls for reform, transparency and accountability are growing. Now, they're following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and the August shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.  

Experts believe this impact in part reflects the failure of communication around body cameras to match the reality.  

"Far too often body cameras are described as these all-seeing mechanisms that are going to provide a panacea to solving all of these really tough police community issues," Piza said, "when in reality, in a lot of cases there's probably some very legitimate reasons why an incident wouldn't be fully recorded on video. 

"So the problem is we're marketing this to the community one way, and then when it turns out some high-profile cases don't have any footage to go along with it, we're stepping on the very messaging we sent out to the community."  

Harris said another common mistake police make when investing in the technology is failing to anticipate the ongoing costs of maintaining it: the costs of repairing broken cameras, time spent reviewing videos and servers to store all the footage. But Harris added that's the very reason departments must be committed to accountability.    

"These things are expensive, and they're expensive on a continuing basis, not a one-time basis," Harris said. "If you don't have the whole program functioning, you have basically created an ongoing public expense that is not fulfilling the purposes the public was told that it would have."  

Although body cameras are just one part of the solution, experts say, they must be used effectively. Otherwise, if the program breaks down, a system that was designed to help improve public trust and transparency does the opposite: leaves communities in the dark. 

"What was announced as a way to enhance trust, when the public sees that it's not actually doing that, has the effect of further breaking trust down," Harris said. "And that's a terrible result."  

Behind the Story

From FOIA battles to data analysis to tracking down solutions, CBS 2 investigative journalists Samah Assad, Christopher Hacker and Dave Savini dive deep into how they uncovered key failures in the Chicago Police Department's body camera program

Behind the story: Left In The Dark by CBS Chicago on YouTube
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