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Mount Pleasant police using new body cams that record automatically one year after Tyrese West shooting

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MOUNT PLEASANT, Wis. (CBS 58) - Mount Pleasant police hope that new body cameras will help build trust between the community and their officers. The department’s new body cameras are now up and running, and are designed to begin recording automatically with certain triggers.

"With the cameras, what it boils down to is transparency and public trust," said Mount Pleasant Police Chief, Matt Soens.

While not the only reason, the chief did say last year’s deadly shooting of Tyrese West by a Mount Pleasant police officer inspired the department to upgrade their body cameras and its policies. The cameras were ordered in December as part of the budget and took five months to be fully set up.  

The new Mt. Pleasant police body cams will no longer need to be turned on manually. If a squad is going at least 70 miles per hour or has its lights on, the cameras will automatically start recording.

At the beginning of each shift now, officers sync their body cameras to their squads. The department’s old cameras didn’t have that capability.

“These allow us to have trigger points that will automatically turn on the squad cameras, which automatically starts our body cameras, and if we can take some of that thinking out of it, we’re better off,” said Soens.

Last week marked one year since Tyrese West was fatally shot by Mount Pleasant police sergeant Eric Giese, who was not charged in West’s death.

The West family filed a federal lawsuit in December against him and the Village of Mount Pleasant after accusing the department of not being transparent. Officer Giese did not turn on his body camera before the shooting happened.

“If you are in an intense situation, you don’t have to remember to turn the camera on,” adds Soens. “So in essence, if that would happen again, if those squad lights were on, the body camera would automatically turn on.”

With the recent deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, both in the hands of police custody, Chief Soens says transparency and trust between police and the community is now more important than ever.

“With the case in Minneapolis that kind of put things to a forefront, obviously right now it’s extremely important, so I think by doing this and building on what we had with our old body camera system but having it that much better, is only going to help with our transparency and building that trust,” says Soens.

“The transparency is out there for everybody, not only for us but also for the public too,” said Officer Matt Prochaska with the Mount Pleasant Police Department. “Because the interactions that we have, whether good or bad, are there.”

The makers of MPPD’s body cameras are also currently testing out activating the body cameras when a gun or Taser is pulled out of its holster.

“Whether that’s here in a year or two years, we don’t know at this point but obviously that’s something we’ll look at if it’s available,” says Soens.

While the body cams are not a cure-all, officers say having the ability to record will help hold everyone involved accountable.

“Having these cameras and having the ability to do that with our job enhances everybody’s opinions and how the incident happened to be true and accurate,” adds Prochaska.

All footage will be kept for at least six months. Unless it compromises a serious investigation, Chief Soens says people can get footage of a specific incident through an open records request.  

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