ROCHESTER, Ill. (WCIA) – The Rochester Police Department does not have body cameras.

But by January 1, 2025, they will have to. That’s because it’s a requirement for all law enforcement agencies laid out in the SAFE-T Act. 

“We do have a little more time with the size of our agency, the size of the community, to implement this,” Tim Sommer, the department’s police chief, said.

Most large police departments across the state are already required under the SAFE-T Act to  have body cameras. 

Smaller departments, like Rochester’s, have more time to work on planning to implement the body cameras. But Sommer said those cameras could come at a high cost.

“It is a large budget item,” Sommer said. “I could put an officer on patrol for roughly the cost of just initial implementation and then you have the ongoing costs after that.”

To help afford the cost of the cameras, the department has been looking for grants.

“There’s only so much assistance out there,” Sommer said. “There’s only so many funds, or so much funds allocated for this.”

After a while, the state stepped in, setting aside money for the previously unfunded mandate. 

This year’s budget allocates $30 million for the Law Enforcement Camera Grant program. 

Agencies can apply for a grant that reimburses them for body cameras they’ve bought. They can also get reimbursed for data storage.

“When the SAFE-T Act passed, we advocated to ensure that we can use body cameras or get body cameras out of that grant funding,” Kenny Winslow, the executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, said.

The state originally left it up to law enforcement to pay for the cameras, but after plenty of feedback from departments, the state created the grant program.

It’s made law enforcement groups confident that agencies can find the money. 

“When the last trailer bill passed, we argued to be able to get storage and other tools that are required to operate an effective body worn camera program included as well,” Winslow said.