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All Geneva police officers will soon be wearing body cameras

All of Geneva’s police officers are set to be wearing body cameras by the end of March, officials announced recently.

Police departments are required by state law to implement body cameras by 2025, but the Geneva Police Department wanted to get ahead of that deadline, according to Deputy Chief Matt Dean. He said officers are excited about the change because it can show the public their perspective during an incident.

“There’s always a question as to what really does happen during police encounters, and these will be able to provide some of the answers to those questions if the video is available to be released to the public,” Dean said.

Often, written reports do not show exactly what the officers were experiencing during an incident, he said. These videos will help the department better communicate officers’ perspectives with the public as well as help train new officers in best practices, according to officials.

While body camera videos from real police encounters may be helpful in training recruits proper tactics and how to react when they need to use force, the videos can also be helpful to show how to avoid using force and de-escalate a situation, according to Dean.

He said the department does a fair amount of intervention for people having a mental health crisis, and these videos can be used to show successful strategies for talking a person through their issue.

According to a news release from the city of Geneva, the body cameras will also be used to provide impartial accounts of police interactions and help investigations by using video evidence.

Officers in the Geneva Police Department are currently going through training on the body cameras, after which they will be required to wear their cameras when they respond to a call or do other official law enforcement activities, the release said.

That training is set to be complete by the end of March, officials said in the release.

Dean said there may be a learning curve in using the cameras, particularly around when they should and shouldn’t be used and when someone can ask for them to be turned off.

However, once officers get used to them, the cameras should not impact their day-to-day jobs, he said.

rsmith@chicagotribune.com