of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff
POLICE RESIST SQUAD CAR VIDEO CAMERAS?
number of northern Illinois law enforcement agencies have followed a
national trend and have begun to install in-car-video (ICV) technology
in police squad cars. Jess Maghan, associate professor of criminal justice,
and Gregory O'Reilly, adjunct professor of criminal justice, both at
the University of Illinois at Chicago, have compiled research on the
benefits and the contentious issues surrounding the technology's introduction,
including possible resistance to change by police officers.
"The immediate challenge for police departments will be to overcome
institutional resistance and operational difficulties, and to integrate
this new technology with other technological tools available to their
patrol officers," said Maghan. "The success of an ICV program may depend
on how well police departments assure their officers that the system
is a useful police tool that can protect them from frivolous claims
of abuse, and train officers in the use and benefits of the new video
Most ICV systems are activated with the squad car's emergency lights
or can be activated manually to record police emergency incidents. The
cameras are equipped with a wide-angle lens to record both traffic and
any activity around the car. A wireless microphone worn by an officer
records the conversation. The system relies on a VCR, but officers cannot
erase or record over a tape. The VCR and tape are kept in a locked box
in the trunk to which only the officers' supervisor has access.
"Despite being told that the camera was installed for their benefit,
many officers retained an attitude that its purpose was to spy on them,"
said Maghan. "Many officers adopted a paranoid, "Big Brother" is watching
attitude and believed that the program showed a lack of faith in the
According to Maghan's research, the purpose of installing ICV was to
get an accurate visual and audio record of enforcement-related activities
to enhance criminal prosecution, limit police liability, reduce personnel
complaints and assist officer training in the performance of their duties.
"Those facing change must adjust to the unknown, alter routines and
adjust their behaviors," said Maghan. "They must do their job while
bearing the responsibility of making new technology work. Their concerns
must clearly be part of the equation in implementing change."