Madison police open to adding body cameras

MADISON, Wis. (WISC) -- As of now, the Madison Police Department does not use body cameras, but with the technology available and several departments heading in that direction, city officials and a statewide police union say adding them is not a matter of “if” but of “when” and “how.”

"I think it is the new future,” Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said.

Recently released body camera footage from Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown’s arrest is giving insight into what happened.

It shows Brown being shocked with a stun gun after parking in two disabled spots, and Milwaukee’s police chief has since apologized.

"One only needs to look at Milwaukee's release of footage yesterday to know how illuminating that can be on officer behavior,” Koval said.

Body camera footage released earlier this week also offered perspective in Texas. The video contradicts a woman’s claim that a trooper assaulted her.

“(Body cameras) give you transparency and accountability,” Koval said.”

"The city of Madison is bucking the trend, and it's disappointing, frankly,” Wisconsin Professional Police Association executive director, Jim Palmer, said.

A recent WPPA poll shows 94 percent of the public supports body cameras.

"They can protect officers and give assurance to the public,” he said. “They're not going to answer all questions, but I think the city of Madison is missing an opportunity."

"At the end of the day, we serve the public, and if the public is clamoring for it and they think it's a mechanism for engendering greater trust, then obviously we have to look at that as a viable option,” Koval said.

He said the public’s support for body cams is matched by his officers, but he’s waiting on directive from the city.

“There’s no question we’re lagging behind,” Mayor Paul Soglin said. "The Madison City Council is the only barrier,”

Soglin acknowledges body cameras aren't perfect and come with funding and policy issues that need resolving, but he's urging City Council members to say yes to adding the technology.

"There is no question that overall, we're all better off with what we know, not what we don't know,” he said.

Alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney said that Madison’s Public Safety Review Committee has looked into body cameras in the past, and the issue will be on its agenda again in the near future.

A Madison committee did vote in favor of a body camera pilot program but wanted a study of the Police Department done first. The study came out in December and recommended developing a policy about body cameras before implementing them.

Council president Samba Baldeh said he's not sure the study's recommendations are compelling enough for the city to invest in body cameras at this time.

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