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Alder wants body cams for inspectors

An Evanston alderperson has proposed that the city’s property standards inspectors be equipped with body worn cameras — but city staff says the idea appears impractical.

The Administration and Public Works Committee is scheduled to discuss the proposal from Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) on Monday.

A staff memo says some landlords have told Burns they deeply distrust the city’s code enforcement officers.

Evanston police already wear body cams, and Burns suggests that making the inspectors wear them as well — and having their performance subject to review by the Citizens Police Review Committee — would promote public confidence in the professionalism and accountability of the inspectors.

But Interim Community Development Director Sarah Flax says that under state law the inspectors — unlike police — would have to get permission from each person they encounter during an inspection for permission to use the camera.

And she suggests residents may not be willing to have an inspection of their unit filmed, even if the residents aren’t present, because it could be seen as an invasion of privacy.

She adds that staff is concerned that the cameras could create tensions and make inspections seem adversarial and that camera use would take a substantial amount of time and limit the number of inspections performed.

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