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DECATUR — City and police officials say the findings of an ongoing pilot program will determine how body cameras would be used if outfitted on Decatur officers.

"The reason to have a pilot is because wearing (the cameras) raises issues about protocol, when they're on and off, how they should be used, tech issues that might arise ... and bugs to be worked out before extending them to the entire department," said City Manager Scot Wrighton on Friday. 

Police Chief Jim Getz said the pilot began in mid-March, and he hopes that it will be completed by summer. Eight cameras are being used in the pilot.

"I chose who wore them — people that would be active, so we can better understand how (the cameras) are going to be used," Getz said. 

Wrighton said city council members have previously shown an interest in testing the feasibility of body cameras in Decatur to learn if they would help enhance the police department's service or bolster legal protection.

Law enforcement agencies that employ use of body cameras in Illinois must follow guidelines set by state law. Among the regulations imposed by the law are that officers must have cameras turned on at all times when on duty, responding to a call for service or engaged in any law enforcement-related encounter or activity.

"An important thing to know is that these body cameras are legislated by state law," Getz said. "We've now committed to testing them out to see if it's something we can go to and if it makes sense to go to."

Getz said the pilot will also determine how much it would cost to buy body cameras for the entire department. Wrighton said that information would be provided to council members during study sessions after the test period ends. 

If the council approves a future proposal to purchase body cameras, Decatur officers would join Decatur Park Police as area agencies with officers outfitted with the equipment. Lt. Jamie Belcher on Friday said the Macon County Sheriff's Office does not use body cameras.

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Contact Jaylyn Cook at (217) 421-7980. Follow him on Twitter: @jaylyn_HR

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Government Reporter

Government reporter for the Herald & Review.

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