New regulations for police body cameras in Wisconsin become law

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BARABOO, Wis. (WMTV) -- Governor Tony Evers signed a new law Friday regulating police body cameras and the footage they record.

The new legislation does not require law enforcement agencies to use body cameras, rather it creates regulations for the ones that do use them. The law requires departments to keep body cam footage for at least 120 days or longer if an investigation is on-going.

In Baraboo, police have been using body cams since 2017. The department says the legislation doesn't change much for them. They already have a process in place that almost mirrors the new law.

"Since we have instituted our body worn camera program it has enhanced not only the quality of our officers but the quality of our officers and community contacts." said Baraboo Police Lt. Ryan Labroscian.

The new law, which had bipartisan support, also allows for video to be released under the state's open records laws with exceptions for footage involving minors or victims with a right to privacy.

Lt. Labroscian says other agencies that don’t currently have a process for all of this could endure some extra costs as body cameras can be expensive to maintain. "The units themselves similar to what we have cost $1000 a piece but it’s the server storage and all the software in the end that is really the most expensive,” said Lt. Ryan Labroscian.

Representative Chris Taylor released a statement on the new legislation. "As long as we have a system of policing in our communities, there needs to be transparency and accountability, which is why this bipartisan legislation is so important. I was thrilled to see unanimous support for this bill in both houses of the legislature," said Taylor.

The bill was also backed by numerous groups from the media, the legal community, and law enforcement. This includes Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, and Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association.