Repair records released by the Chicago Police Department show that the audio recording functionality no longer works on 80 percent of the department’s 850 dashcams and another 12 percent no longer have functioning video recording capabilities.
DNAinfo Chicago notes that CPD has attributed this problem “to operator error or in some cases intentional destruction.”
The issue first caught investigators’ attention during a probe into the officer-involved, October 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. CPD Officer Jason Van Dyke has been charged with first degree murder for his role in the shooting. In that incident, 3 of the CPD dashcams directed at the scene did not capture any video and none of them captured any audio.
Officer Van Dyke himself was found to have demonstrated a pattern of behavior in which he repeatedly submitted his dashcam unit for lengthy, time-consuming repairs to what investigators characterized as “intentional damage.”
Analysis of department-wide dashcam repair records found that the problem was widespread among officers.
“Chicago Police Department officers stashed microphones in their squad car glove boxes. They pulled out batteries. Microphone antennas got busted or went missing. And sometimes, dashcam systems didn’t have any microphones at all,” according to DNAinfo Chicago.
Out of 22 officer-involved shooting investigations in the city in 2015, dashcam evidence had only been uploaded by police in 3 of the incidents.
Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo blamed the dashcam malfunctions on CPD and the City of Chicago and questioned whether investigators have the capability to determine if such a device was disabled intentionally or accidentally. Also, some have blamed the issue on the fact that the warranty contract on the dashcams expired in 2012, and a new maintenance contract was not signed until Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel did so in 2014.
New York Magazine is reporting that CPD began to perform weekly audits of dashcam evidence and punishing officers for disabling their cameras in December of 2015.
Interim CPD Superintendent John J. Escalante, who took over after Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired previous Superintendent Garry McCarthy last month, started off his reign atop the department by warning officers, “When you get into that car, test the in-car camera and the audio. Make sure it’s working. That’s your responsibility. If the system isn’t working and officers didn’t report it we are going to take disciplinary action.”
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said, “To boil this down, the Police Department will not tolerate officers maliciously destructing equipment. Supt. Escalante sent a very clear message and has held people accountable. And since we took that corrective action, we have seen a more than 70 percent increase in the amount of [dashcam evidence] uploads at the end of each tour … and that is being audited weekly with reports sent to the superintendent.”
CPD’s complete dashcam repair logs can be seen below.
In December, Ben Swann raised questions in a CBS 46 Atlanta Reality Check report as to why it took over one year for the Chicago Police Department to bring murder charges against Officer Van Dyke. Watch that report in the video embedded below.