Bloomington council votes to delay decision on auto license plate ID cameras

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Public safety or an invasion of privacy; that was the center of debate at Bloomington city council meeting Monday night.

Monday night, council members voted six to two in favor of tabling the expansion of the police department’s security cameras.

Once approved, the plan is to install 10 cameras in places in Bloomington impacted by violent crime. All of them feature an automatic license plate reader that can give police information about the make, model, and color of the car.

But, what police are doing with this information leaves many residents concerned.

Multiple public commenters called into the virtual meeting Monday night, including the American Civil Liberties Union. Critics said residents need to know the police’s goals with the technology.

According to town staff, police believe the cameras will cut down on officers having to comb through hours of footage to compare car data– and instead will have it instantly. Supporters say this will help solve more crimes and reduce crimes involving cars.

A few council members believe this proposed technology could have helped police in the ongoing Jelani Day death investigation. The once missing Illinois State University student’s family spoke Monday, calling out police and governmental leaders at all levels for not doing more in the case and asking for his case to be taken over by the FBI.

Those that are skeptical about the addition of cameras believe there needs to be more public input and that police need to provide proof of the technology’s effectiveness before not after a vote.

Ward 9 council member Tom Crumpler said he generally supports the idea of new technology being used in policing but supported delaying any votes on the matter until he can get feedback from his constituents.

“Prior to placing cameras in communities, those communities ought to have an opportunity to weigh in. I think that kind of thing builds trust with communities,” Crumpler said.

Police said any data from the cameras would only be stored for 30 days, unless needed in an investigation. The department also plans on releasing usage logs each month. It would be the first in Illinois to do so.

The issue will be discussed at a Public Safety and Community Relations Board meeting before going back in front of the council for approval at the Feb. 14 meeting.

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