The Cook County probation department in Chicago for the first time plans to equip some of its officers with body cameras, a move that follows allegations that rogue officers had planted drugs, stolen money and violated the civil rights of probationers during home curfew checks, the Chicago Tribune reports. Chief Judge Timothy Evans, who oversees the court’s adult probation department, said body cameras would bring about transparency and be good for officers and citizens. The move will make Cook County one of the few U.S. jurisdictions to outfit probation officers with the cameras.
Evans, in seeking funding for the cameras, told county lawmakers how probation officers must enter homes to make sure that offenders are following the terms of their probation, which includes not possessing illegal drugs or firearms, and abiding by their court-ordered curfew. “They do a fantastic job; they (conduct) curfew checks and other things,” Evans said of probation officers. “But occasionally they have been accused of taking something while they’re in someone’s home. And I just thought that the body cameras would show what they did while they were in someone’s home.” A Tribune investigation showed how the probation department had quietly worked with the FBI and Chicago police to conduct questionable searches. Probationers told the Tribune they were threatened with jail if they refused to be informants for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Others alleged that money and other property was stolen during searches.