Madison looking into police body cams

With the officer-involved shooting in Ferguson, Missouri causing violent protests, the issue of using body cameras on police is in the spotlight.

Two Madison alders are saying now is the time to look into body cameras.

They've asked Madison Police to find out the cost, the issue of privacy violations and file storage.

Madison Police knows the importance of implimenting technology into their patrolling.

"We use it in a lot of applications, especially where they're most prolific and contentious. For example, traffic stops are all taped, interviews and interrogations," said Chief Mike Koval of City of Madison Police.

For two years now, the city's SWAT team has worn helmet cameras.

"It's consistent with our mission core to be transparent," said Chief Koval.

Recent events are bringing the alders to say it's time for that next step of body cameras.

"We feel like Madison should also be on the forefront of figuring out a way to have our officers additionally equipped with cameras," said District 8 Alder Scott Resnick, one alder who introduced the resolution.

Madison Police say it's something they may have to take time to implement.

"Our department has done pretty well with transparency and our public. We don't have the same levels of mistrust that were seeing down in Ferguson. Having said that, the question is not if we're going to get those body cameras, it's more of a question of when," said Chief Koval.

The change may take a while because cost is the prohibitive factor.

"We'd have to start with patrol services, that's over two-hundred officers, and at a camera of over five-hundred dollars. You can do the math...that sort of number boggles my mind," said Chief Koval.

Chief Koval says that number alone means they would have to phase in the cameras.

An even bigger cost, according to Mayor Paul Soglin, is file storage and retrieval.

"No question we will have body cameras. It will be when technology and costs make it affordable," said Mayor Paul Soglin.

Soglin added acting too early would put us on the "bleeding edge" instead of the "cutting edge."

Alder Resnick believes the price point is right in the scheme of things.

"Simply by looking at the cost benefit analysis of any lawsuit that is brought against a police officer in the City of Madison. By having that camera on their lapel, it allows us to have new insight -- additional insight and additional transparency within those reactions," said Alder Resnick.

Alder Resnick believes they could have numbers from the police as early as December.

The resolution requests Madison Police Department to work with the Police Union to create a report about body cam usage, the cost, and any additional issues.

When the report is finished, they'll present it to the common council.

From there, a public conversation on whether to purchase body cams or not will take place.


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