DeKALB – DeKalb County Board Chairman Mark Pietrowski said the County Board is encouraging the DeKalb County Sheriff’s office to pursue acquiring body cameras, while DeKalb County Sheriff Roger Scott expressed concerns about cameras taking a toll on his staff from handling expected Freedom of Information Act requests.
While no dollar amount has yet been identified, Pietrowski said the newest fiscal 2020 county budget proposal includes line items for potential body cameras.
“That was something I brought up to Roger last year,” Pietrowski said. “But it’s important to note that for the sheriff’s office, while we control the budget, [Scott] ultimately controls what they do with the budget.”
Pietrowski said he thinks body cameras would be “very beneficial” to the county moving forward, and are in line with efforts from neighboring jurisdictions looking into getting the technology.
He said Northern Illinois University police are looking into the cameras.
During Wednesday’s community meeting after the arrest of Aurora man Elonte McDowell, and the release of the cellphone video that went viral after the arrest, DeKalb interim Police Chief John Petragallo said he would also welcome body cameras. He said years ago it would have been a “foreign concept” for police officers to be recorded on duty, but now it’s a norm.
“We don’t fear cameras,” Petragallo said Wednesday. “All of our cars are now equipped with cameras. And we have been looking into body cams. If I could get the budget for it, we would start a pilot program. I’m a believer in cameras. Cameras tell a story, so I’m not afraid of that.”
Scott said that while he agrees with Petragallo that cameras might tell an important story, there are other concerns to consider, too.
“The budget item is one issue,” Scott said. “But I believe [Freedom of Information Act requests] are really complicated with body cams. It would be a significant workload if we had to deal with body cam FOIAs as well as other FOIAs.”
Scott said body cameras would also take up significant hard-drive space because all video would need to be stored for at least 90 days as is dashcam video.
“It’s not just about getting the cameras, it’s about all those support materials and the work that comes with maintaining that,” Scott said. “Some people may think that’s an excuse, but that’s the reality we live with every day with the workload on our secretarial staff.”
NEW VIDEO SHOWS DIFFERENT ANGLE
Newly obtained dashboard camera video of McDowell’s arrest shows DeKalb police questioning McDowell before they move to arrest him, and he can be seen lunging out of camera view before DeKalb police tackle him to the ground.
The dashcam video, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, is from the squad car used by DeKalb County Sheriff’s Deputy Justin Moede, who operates the department’s K-9 unit. Moede was called by DeKalb police to assist in what police said was a drug investigation after they received a dispatch tip alleging McDowell was headed to DeKalb with “a load of drugs.”
Two videos, one seven minutes long, and the other 26 minutes, show Moede arriving at the parking lot of Lincoln Towers, 1100 Lincoln Highway, after DeKalb police are already there with McDowell, who was driving a tan Chevy Malibu with his girlfriend in the car.
The deputy’s dashcam video doesn’t show the arrest or the events leading up to it. The seven minute video begins at 11:19 a.m. Aug. 24 and shows a vehicle driven by DeKalb County Sheriff’s Sgt. Christian Kuhns, who was the supervisor on duty that day, coming to assess the situation, as is procedure after a taser is used, Scott said,
The video also shows the vehicle McDowell was driving being towed away after police said they found a bag containing between 1 and 3.5 ounces of marijuana, according to court documents.
The longer, 26-minute video, is from the dashcam of Moede’s vehicle. His K-9 was called on the scene by DeKalb police to assist in the drug search, police said.
The video feed from Moede’s vehicle begins at 11:03 a.m. Aug. 24 (the timeline shows DeKalb police had already puled McDowell over, questioned him, and he had already exited his car at this point).
Moede pulls into the parking lot of Lincoln Towers, and video shows DeKalb police are in the process of questioning McDowell, who is standing in front of a DeKalb squad car.