Officers from Loyola’s police force are now required to wear body cameras, following a decision made by university president Jo Ann Rooney. But a Loyola spokesperson said students likely won’t see footage under most circumstances.
The police force (Campus Safety) came under criticism after two students were detained in February in Damen Student Center. One student was grabbed by her shirt and jerked toward a wall and the other was handuffed on the ground.
But Anderson said the conversation about body cameras started before that occurrence.
Body cameras, used to show an officer’s perspective during an incident, have become increasingly common in the U.S.
Anderson said the footage likely won’t be released, citing liability and privacy reasons.
“I can say that’s probably not going to happen,” Anderson said when asked about the circumstances of students viewing the footage. “There’s a lot of liability issues involved in opening up that kind of footage to anyone who requests to see it.”
Anderson said the privacy of everyone captured on camera should be protected. If there’s a dispute about footage not being released, Anderson said “authorized individuals” would review the incident.
Anderson said Loyola won’t release footage because it’s not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, which allows reporters and the general public to request records from governmental agencies.
Body camera footage of a University of Chicago police officer shooting and injuring a student was released in April. The footage was “edited by the university to obscure certain visual details,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Campus Safety Sergeant Tim Cunningham said all officers are now wearing the cameras.
“Body worn cameras were deployed to all Loyola University Chicago Campus Police Officers starting Monday August 27th,” Cunningham said in an email to The Phoenix. “All LUC Police Officers have been trained in operation of these cameras and policy, which is based on Illinois State law.”
He didn’t provide details on the protocol for requesting to view footage or the circumstances which would allow students to see footage. Cunningham didn’t respond to follow-up questions on the subject.
Neither Anderson nor Cunningham provided information on the cost of the body cameras and subsequent training programs.
Anderson said even though the footage won’t be released, the body cameras will ensure officers are held accountable.
“This is so officers are held accountable by the authorities that hold them accountable, whether that’s their boss, whether that’s the university,” Anderson said.
Along with accountability, Anderson said the body cameras will increase transparency between the student body and Campus Safety, even though the footage won’t be seen by students.
“[Body camera use] subjects the officers to professional review and they’re a lot more accountable as are the people they’re going to be encountering,” Anderson said. “So I think it helps transparency on both ends.”
The February incident started a series of protests on campus and an external investigative firm, Hillard Heintze, was hired to review the incident. The two students who were detained sued the university for civil rights violations. The Phoenix was also named in the lawsuit.
In June, Hillard Heintze released a report on the February student detainment, which said Campus Safety should improve their transparency and accountability.
Anderson said the university is taking the necessary steps to improve Campus Safety relations with students, including a new method for recording statistics and a more “robust” reporting process. He didn’t give details on the recording system or the reporting process.
Anderson also said an “ongoing” task force has been discussed so issues can be analyzed as they arise.
Rooney and two Campus Safety officials, Thomas Murray and Thomas Kelly, didn’t respond to interview requests from The Phoenix.