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CPD’s Johnson, Escalante don body cameras to patrol in Austin

CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson (center) and First Deputy John Escalante wore body cameras while on patrol in the Austin neighborhood Friday night. Soon, all CPD officers will have the cameras. | Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson was just another officer on the street Friday night, out patrolling in the West Side Austin district.

And he was wearing a body camera.

So was First Deputy John Escalante, as the two responded to “routine’ calls including a burglary, a “man down,” and various traffic incidents.

That was his haul before meeting reporters at the busy corner of Cicero Avenue and Madison Street to give a report on his night out in solidarity with officers in a district where all officers soon will wear the cameras.

Supt. Eddie Johnson and First Deputy John Escalante meet with the media before going out on patrol wearing body cameras. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times
Supt. Eddie Johnson and First Deputy John Escalante meet with the media before going out on patrol wearing body cameras. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times

“We think the interactions we’ve had so far tonight went quite well,” Johnson told a bevy of media who, along with the superintendent, drew large groups of curious residents and slowed passing traffic.

“People are very receptive to our using the body cameras,” he said.

“As I’ve said from day one, body cameras just go toward promoting accountability and transparency, and it assures the police respond appropriately, professionally and respectfully. But it also changes the behavior of the citizens that are encountered.”

Officers in six districts will be the first to get the new body cameras. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times
Officers in six districts will be the first to get the new body cameras. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times

The department is getting 2,000 new body cameras this summer, in six districts: the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th, 14th and 15th.

The first wave will fully equip the 6th District by the end of May, and officers in all six districts will have the cameras by July’s end, Johnson said.

Protocol will require turning on the cameras — second-generation cameras made by Taser — during certain types of calls, particularly in adversarial situations, and then uploading video from the cameras at the end of the shift by connecting it to a dock, the superintendent said.

“So far we’ve had a good reaction from both police and citizens,” Johnson said. After the press conference ended at 9 p.m., he returned to patrol.

And how did it feel being back on the street?

“It feels good to be out here on the streets. It always feels good when you feel you’re making a difference. And of course, it feels good to be out here with my officers,” he said.

Supt. Eddie Johnson and First Deputy John Escalante wore body cameras while on patrol in the Austin neighborhood on Friday night. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times
Supt. Eddie Johnson and First Deputy John Escalante wore body cameras while on patrol in the Austin neighborhood on Friday night. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times
Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times
Supt. Eddie Johnson and First Deputy John Escalante meet with the media to discuss the body cameras they wore while on patrol Friday night in Austin. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times<br>
Supt. Eddie Johnson and First Deputy John Escalante meet with the media to discuss the body cameras they wore while on patrol Friday night in Austin. | Brian Jackson/For the Sun-Times