Unfunded mandate. Those just might be the two most hated words for most local government leaders.
For the uninitiated, these are statutes and regulations that require certain actions on behalf of state or local governments that come without providing adequate funding — or, in most cases, no funding — to support them.
And while there’s a litany of unfunded mandates on the books, the one we’re addressing today is the required usage of body cams for all police departments in Illinois as mandated by House Bill 3653, which was signed into law earlier this year. Specifically, we’re addressing the ongoing costs of data storage associated with their use.
To be clear, we’re not saying the cameras shouldn’t be employed. Just the contrary, in fact. And at this week’s Kankakee County Board’s executive committee meeting, it was clear that Sheriff Mike Downey isn’t saying that either.
“I’m still convinced that I think this is a need,” he told committee members.
He attended the meeting to give the county an update on the cost of the needed equipment to fulfill the mandate. For the county department, it will come with a $317,000 price tag.
While that’s not chump change by any means, the cost that really concerns us is how much it will cost to store the hours and hours of footage the cameras will create. These body cameras must be on at all times an officer is on duty, with some exceptions, and Illinois law requires all footage be stored for at least 90 days.
That’s a lot of data. Saving that data will come to the tune of $20,000 annually for the county sheriff department alone. When you start adding up the data storage costs for all law enforcement agencies in the county, the annual cost becomes staggering.
And, an annually repeating unfunded mandate is the worst of their kind. So, if state lawmakers aren’t going to make provisions for purchasing the equipment, they should at least seek a solution to these annual data storage costs that undoubtedly will put a strain on local budgets for years to come.