Chicago's police camera system has run into a big problem: Chicago police. According to new documents obtained by DNA Chicago, the department is struggling with widespread equipment failures in its body and dashboard cameras, in many cases driven by intentional destruction of the devices by officers.
The report points specifically to the squad car involved in the controversial 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, which was equipped with a dashboard camera but unable to capture audio. According to police records, the camera had been returned to the squad car just eight days earlier after what technicians described as "intentional damage" to the audio recording system. Roughly 80 percent of Chicago police video is missing audio, a statistic that the department puts down to a combination of officer error and intentional destruction.
As a number of cities struggle with high-profile incidents of police violence, body and dashboard cameras have become a popular solution for gathering evidence and holding officers accountable. Still, nearly all popular camera models can be shut off by the officer, and enforcing usage has been a consistent problem for police departments. In Chicago, that struggle seems to be translating into a conflict between officers and their superiors. "The Police Department will not tolerate officers maliciously destructing equipment," a Chicago police spokesperson told DNA Chicago.