Many states allow (or even require) police officers to wear body cameras while on duty. Body cameras preserve visual evidence at the scene of a crime. They also routinely monitor law enforcement interactions with citizens. Body camera footage shows an unbiased view of events between law enforcement officers and the public.

In Illinois, law enforcement personnel use body cameras under the Law Enforcement Officer-Worn Body Camera Act. If a member of the public encounters an officer wearing a body camera, it is not a threat as long as citizens follow practical strategies.  

Appropriate behavior when encountering an officer 

If citizens are going about their lawful business and happen upon a law enforcement officer wearing a body camera, it is unwise to stare and act startled. People should not abruptly veer away and enter the closest storefront or side street. These actions imply guilt and may draw unwanted attention from a police authority on the scene. The best behavior is for people to walk at a normal pace toward their destination. They should resist their natural curiosity and not glance back at a scene of police activity.   

Helpful behavior when approached by a police officer 

If an officer addresses an individual, the person should stand in a relaxed position and politely answer any questions. Unless it would prevent the officer from unknowingly entering a dangerous situation, it is best not to volunteer information that does not relate to the discussion at hand. In most cases, the officer may want to know if you have witnessed a particular activity or request help locating an address. Those not guilty of a crime have nothing to fear. They should treat police authorities with respect.

However, if an officer is asking questions that could result in an incriminating answer, you should not lie. Instead, decline to answer or remain silent. If the officer persists or becomes aggressive, advise him or her that you will not answer any questions without a lawyer and end the dialogue.

Correct behavior when a traffic officer is nearby

Unless a traffic officer signals a driver to pull over, the person should continue to proceed lawfully and not stare nervously at the officer. If the traffic officer does signal for a driver to pull over, it is best not to speak until the officer asks the person for information. A person’s facial expressions should not betray fear, anger, tension or aggression. Remember that a body camera records each action. A truthful, polite driver may have the best chance to receive only a warning.

Although some people fear police body cameras are an invasion of privacy, there are strict rules in place concerning authorization to view the evidence. By remaining calm and remembering a police body camera captures every word and expression, people can avoid making body camera errors that could result in an unfavorable judgment at a court appearance.

However, if an officer is asking questions that could result in an incriminating answer you should not lie. Rather, decline to answer or remain silent. If the officer persists or becomes aggressive, advise him or her that you will not answer any questions without a lawyer and end the dialogue.