Body cameras in Ferguson

A police officer wears a body camera at a rally for Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Some officers there have begun wearing donated body cameras after the shooting of the unarmed Brown, which has sparked weeks of protest. (Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images / August 30, 2014)

The Chicago Police Department is considering testing body cameras on officers, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The idea comes at a time when police-involved shootings have become a hot-button issue across the country, after an unarmed teenager was fatally shot by police last month in Ferguson, Mo.

Chicago police spokesman Marty Maloney said the department is "looking into a pilot program" for some officers to participate in, but he insisted no plans are in place. Body cameras are typically clipped to an officer's uniform and are capable of recording video and audio.

Superintendent Garry McCarthy supports the use of the cameras, said Maloney, who stopped short of describing situations they would be useful in. Advocates, however, say they can help shed light on how violent situations like police-involved shootings unfold.

"As far as the body cameras, we're always evaluating and open to considering any tools that would allow for more transparency," Maloney said in an email. "Ensuring the integrity of police officers is essential in the partnership between residents and police, a partnership central to our community policing philosophy."

The president of the union that represents rank-and-file police officers said he thinks there are positives to having the cameras, noting, for example, how some officers have complained that video evidence could have exonerated them in situations in which they were accused of misconduct. But he raised concern about whether the cameras would pick up officers' private conversations, which may be offensive to some people.

"Police humor is a little different," said Dean Angelo, president of Lodge 7 of the Fraternal Order of Police. "These (officers) see a lot and sometimes use humor to get out of tough situations, where people may … get upset if they hear it."

jgorner@tribune.com