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Safe-T Act: New Body Camera Requirements

March 8, 2021

On February 22, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill referred to as the “Safe-T Act,” part of which makes body cameras mandatory for all law enforcement agencies.

Counties and municipalities with a population of:

  • more than 500,000 must implement the body cameras requirements by January 1, 2022;
  • 100,000 – 499,999 must implement the body camera requirements by January 1, 2023;
  • 50,000 – 99,999 must implement the body camera requirements by January 1, 2024; and
  • less than 50,000 must implement the body camera requirements by January 1, 2025.

As was the case with the Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act, body cameras must be worn at all times when the officer is in uniform and responding to calls for service.  While officers do not need to use their body camera in their patrol car with a functioning in-car camera, they must turn their body camera on upon exiting their vehicle for a law enforcement-related encounter.  Cameras may also be turned off if an officer is performing a community caretaking function, but the camera must be turned back on as soon as the officer has reason to believe that a crime is being committed.

There are also times when the body camera must be turned off.  An officer’s camera must be turned off if the victim of a crime or a witness reporting a crime so requests, or when the officer is talking to a confidential informant.  Recording may continue if there are exigent circumstances, but the officer must indicate on the recording the reason for continuing to record.

All recordings must be kept for 90 days and then be destroyed, unless the recording event is “flagged.”  A recording is flagged (and therefore must be retained for the longer of 2 years, or until the final disposition and order from the court of the criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding it was used in) in circumstances where:

  • a formal or informal complaint has been filed;
  • the officer used any type of force or discharged a firearm;
  • death or great bodily harm occurred;
  • an encounter resulted in a detention or arrest (except for minor traffic or business offenses);
  • the officer is the subject of an internal investigation;
  • the officer’s supervisor, the prosecutor, the defendant, or the Court determines the recording has evidentiary value in a criminal case; or
  • the recording officer requests that the recording be flagged for official purposes.

While the ramifications for not complying with the new Safe-T Act are not yet clear, each law enforcement agency is required to provide annual reports related to the department’s use of officer-worn body cameras, which will be provided to the Governor and legislature.