By Samah Assad, Christopher Hacker, Dave Savini

CBS 2 released an exhaustive investigation Wednesday that uncovered glaring failures in a taxpayer-funded program meant to protect the public and the police.  

The investigation, titled, “Left in the Dark,” is the first to piece together how CPD’s body camera program often fails to meet its initial goal of improving transparency and public trust.  

The policy itself looks good on paper, according to national policing experts. But in reality, CBS 2 found a pattern of extensive failures by officers to use body cameras when they should, and lax oversight by supervisors. 

Here are five key takeaways from the investigation:  

  • More than 62,000 investigatory stops since 2018, or nearly 20 percent, didn’t have body camera video. Some of these officers are required by policy to turn on body cameras during these stops. Others on special teams were never required to wear them. 
  • If you’re stopped in a majority Black or Latino community, it’s less likely the investigatory stop will be recorded. CBS 2 mapped CPD’s investigatory stop data, and it revealed glaring racial disparities. This isn’t the first time CBS 2 uncovered disparities in tactics used by Chicago police officers. 
  • CPD supervisors are supposed to audit the program but routinely fail to check whether officers are following the policy. Documents from CPD’s body camera evaluation committee meetings show the department has known about these problems since 2018, a year after all patrol officers were equipped with body cameras. The problem continued even after the city inspector general raised similar issues last year.
  • Police can’t tell the public how often there are violations or discipline. The department doesn’t track this information separately. CBS 2 previously reported on critical incidents that also aren’t tracked by CPD. 
  • CPD can implement inexpensive solutions – proven effective elsewhere – that can improve the program and increase officer compliance with turning body cameras on. New Orleans Police Department’s body camera program is one example CBS 2 found that saw improvements after implementing key reforms. 

You can read the full investigationexplore our data, view police body camera video, and watch extended interviews here.