More than 12 percent of dashboard cameras and 80 percent of microphones in Chicago Police Department patrol cars don’t work properly, according to an analysis of the department's recording equipment.
The incredibly high percentage of failed equipment is leading to some awkward questions for the Chicago Police Department, and has further exacerbated the distrust of police officers.
The investigation comes in wake of footage released showing a cop shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. A review found that of at least four police cars with dash cams installed in close proximity, only one produced any video and none of them recorded any audio.
One police officer complained of a “power issue” that prevented his dash cam from being used but on inspection, no problems were found. This led the investigation committee to believe that some of the recording devices were intentionally damaged.
DNAinfo Chicago has discovered that CPD officers often stashed microphones in their cars’ dashboards. The batteries would go missing or the antennas would get damaged — and sometimes the microphones in the dash cam would go missing altogether.
Many cops have reported that they were specifically told only to use the equipment during traffic stops during their training.
"Why isn't anyone bringing up that when these cameras first came out we were told that audio only has to be on for traffic stops in violation of [the Illinois Vehicle Code]?" one officer asked. "No other time are these mics supposed to be on. I even remember being told the only time they're to be removed from the vehicle is on a traffic stop; that's it."
However, the police department’s policies have been updated since then and many of the cops have not been re-educated, probably due to the high cost and time required to re-train 13,000 cops of Chicago Police Department.
A police union rep, meanwhile, wants to know how the committee can be sure officers purposefully sabotaged their equipment. A police spokesman answered by saying that since the crackdown on officers to make sure their dash cams were working properly, there has been a 70% increase in the amount of videos recorded at the end of their shift.
The horrific incident of McDonald’s shooting only shone a light to this problem, which apparently has been going on for some time. The Chicago Police Department and the transparency advocates are currently in a legal fight over the destruction of police misconduct records dating back to 1967, the very records that could help the Justice Department review patterns of police misconduct.