Beloit police officers to start wearing body cameras next month

All officers in field will wear camera
Beloit police officers to start wearing body cameras next month

The Beloit Police Department is preparing to have all officers in the field wear body cameras starting in early February.

Police Chief David Zibolski announced last March he wanted body cameras in service by the end of 2017, but IT issues and employee contract negotiations slowed down the department.

“We are more likely than not to have video coverage of most of the incidents we’re involved in,” Zibolski said.

The chief said a pilot run of the body cameras was successful. He said a group of officers from different positions and assignments practiced using the cameras and figured out the best spot to wear them.

“They practiced foot chases, car stops, all those types of things to really work out the operational street bugs that might happen with these new devices,” Zibolski said. “At the same time, we worked on policy, looking at best practice and getting some legal review of those issues and putting together, I think, a pretty good policy that will allow enough discretion for the officers but also allow that level of accountability.”Beloit police officers to start wearing body cameras next month

Zibolski said there are several options for where the officers can wear the cameras, but all of them are above shoulder level.

“There’s a couple different head mounts, cap and glasses, and there’s also a lapel mount…It’s not going to be, for the street officers, here,” Zibolski said pointing to his chest. “Because there’s just too many things and anytime they do something physical, they’re blocking the view of the camera and then there’s no value to it whatsoever.”

The chief said the cameras will help officers document evidence and investigations in the field and also build trust with the community.

“I think both law enforcement and the public really welcome, for the most part, the body-worn cameras because it’s going to help us, again, with our ability to solve crime and document our findings, but also to make sure there’s a level of accountability for the officers and the public,” Zibolski said.

He said the cameras can automatically turn on if an officer activates the squad lights, uses a Taser or another officer in the area turns his or her camera on. In a previous interview with News 3 , Zibolski said officers would be allowed to turn the cameras off in certain situations, like in hospitals.Beloit police officers to start wearing body cameras next month

After each shift, the chief said, officers will dock their cameras, and the video will be uploaded into the system where people will be able to request to view the footage just like any other video the department has. He said the department does have in-car cameras and will still use them after the body cameras are introduced. Later on, the chief said, the department will evaluate whether to keep using both cameras.

Zibolski said he will be presenting a draft of the department’s body camera policy to the Beloit School Board on Tuesday to answer questions about officers wearing the cameras inside schools .

“I think it’s really an important education piece that they understand when the cameras will be used and what the police would dictate and how we will work together to resolve that,” he said.