OIG Recommendations to Inform and Improve Storage and Labeling of Body Worn Camera Footage

Pursuant to the Municipal Code of Chicago (MCC) §2-56-230(c), the Public Safety section of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducts reviews of individual closed disciplinary investigations conducted by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA) and the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) Bureau of Internal Affairs (BIA). Based on those reviews, OIG may make recommendations to inform and improve future disciplinary investigations to ensure that they are complete, thorough, objective, and fair.

Over the course of OIG’s review of closed disciplinary investigations, programmatic inquiries, and its own investigations into allegations of police misconduct, OIG has encountered instances in which footage captured by CPD members’ body worn cameras (BWC) was mislabeled in the web-based repository in which it is stored. This mislabeling of BWC footage impacts the ability of both CPD and Chicago’s police accountability agencies to locate and retrieve all footage from an event, thereby compromising disciplinary and criminal investigations and jeopardizing the City’s ability to meet its legal and constitutional obligations to disclose information.

In order to inform and improve future investigations, OIG recommended that CPD coordinate with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), Axon Enterprises, and any other entities as necessary, to assess the processes currently in place for tagging BWC footage with event numbers and take corrective action as appropriate to ensure that all footage of an incident that is recorded with BWC can reliably be retrieved.

CPD agreed with OIG’s assessment of the potential consequences that may result from the inability to properly locate BWC footage of an event. In response to OIG’s recommendations, CPD published an administrative message, in line with similar messages published previously, reminding members of the importance of following the proper steps to ensure BWC footage is appropriately labeled. CPD also noted it is transitioning from its current BWC system to a new system that is equipped with a GPS-based tracking system, which CPD reports will allow for easier tracking and cataloguing of BWC footage.

OIG’s letter to CPD containing its recommendations is attached in Appendix A and CPD’s response is attached in Appendix B. OIG appreciates the corrective steps CPD has taken and encourages CPD to continue to take active measures to ensure BWC footage is properly labeled and easily retrievable as it moves to the new system.

Read the recommendations and departmental response here.