Naperville officials this week cleared the way for installation of video cameras in police squad cars, over the objections of two councilmen.
The contract that will equip 38 patrol vehicles with equipment, technical support and five years’ worth of maintenance went to WatchGuard Video as part of a cooperative governmental purchase with other public safety agencies that keeps the final costs down, officials said.
Mike Bevis, the city’s chief procurement officer, said WatchGuard was the only potential vendor that offered features deemed important in the devices, including high-definition video, multiple-resolution recording and high-quality functionality for the user. Maintenance costs for the proprietary system will need to be negotiated with WatchGuard in the fourth year.
Funding for the expense, which will be $295,970 or less, will come from an account created to hold fees the Naperville Police Department receives for each conviction resulting from an arrest made by officers for driving under the influence. First-time offenders pay a penalty of $750, of which $350 goes to the department. Second offenders are assessed $1,000, with $200 earmarked for the fund.
Chief Bob Marshall said the Naperville force is one of only a few in the state that do not already have the cameras in use. Still, the purchase did not draw full support from the City Council.
“I hate getting caught in this trap where we have proprietary agreements where we can’t competitive bid,” said council member Steve Chirico, who joined Bob Fieseler in casting the two votes against the agreement. “All we can do is either change the system or accept their costs.”
Bevis, who noted that the equipment is expected to last about five years, said sole-source contracts are often unavoidable with expenditures involving technology.
“It is an unfortunate characteristic of the software industry that you end up committed to either a project or program, or changing it in the future,” he said.
But Chirico was unconvinced, urging that the decision be postponed so additional alternatives could be scrutinized.
“Just because we have the money set aside, that doesn’t mean we have to spend it,” he said.
Other council members were wholeheartedly behind the purchase, however. Grant Wehrli said a video camera does more than simply provide an extra layer of security for police officers.
“It protects them, and it also protects us from people doing bad things to police officers that result in workers comp claims that are greater than $300,000,” he said.
Councilman Doug Krause said the city recently spent “far more” than the purchase cost to settle a case in court.
“If we had the cameras in the cars, the thing might have gone a different way,” he said.
For Mayor A. George Pradel, a veteran of the Naperville police force, it’s high time for the added feature.
“I can tell you as a former police officer, I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” Pradel said, noting the presence of cameras will offer a variety of benefits. “It really is a help to all of our police officers, and I think we owe that to them, as well as our citizens. ... We’ve held off for quite a while.”