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“The time is now.”: Madison Common Council Pres. supports MPD body cameras

Madison Police officers do not use the recording devices, but city leaders said that could soon change.
Published: Aug. 27, 2020 at 11:09 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -As the Kenosha police shooting of Jacob Blake reignited the debate about body cameras, Madison Common Council president expressed her support for the recording devices in Madison.

Madison Police officers do not use the recording devices, but city leaders said that could soon change.

“All of these incidents are happening in communities of color. That raises a red flag that something needs to be done,” Sheri Carter, Madison Common Council president said.

A lens into law enforcement --body cameras have been a topic of debate in Madison for years.

“I think public safety needs to be our No. 1 goal for Madison.” Carter said.

In Nov. 2015, The Community Policing and Body Camera committee submitted a report to the Madison Common Council explaining the issue of trust and the community relationship with police needed to be addressed first before adding body cameras into the mix.

“Fast forward to today, I think the timing is right,” Carter said.

Carter said amid recent incidents involving police and the African American community, body cameras would provide better transparency.

“Many citizens and officers like body camera footage because it provides objective documentation about one portion of an interaction,” Cecelia Klingele, UW-Madison associate professor of law said.

Klingele said body cameras can be used as evidence and promote trust. She explained there are two sides to every coin.

“Many of us wouldn’t want there to be public footage of us of maybe not dressed like we normally would be or in our homes when people are upset,” she said. “Sometimes having documentations of all interactions might make a police officer feel pressured to respond more punitively or more formally.”

She said the camera comes with a price tag.

“It can be really costly to store all of the camera footage and to document and retain it properly,” she said.

Carter said the hefty cost has been an issue in the past.

“That’s why it’s going to be a very deep dive discussion with the council members,” Carter said.

In the past, acting Madison Police Chief Victor Wahl expressed interest in the body cams.

A committee who examines the pros and cons of body cameras is finishing up now and the council president said they should get a report with the findings this year.

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