City council pushes back funding for police body cams

Proposal would implement pilot program in 2016 at earliest
Police body cam

A proposal by Alderman Scott Resnick, District 8, would create a pilot program to equip some of Madison’s officers with body cameras.

At Tuesday’s meeting, council members decided to push back funding for the program until 2016 at the earliest. And details like who will wear them and when they will wear them are still being considered.

Resnick said the proposal is a win-win for Madison residents and officers.

“We’ve seen body cams as a way to deter officer-related abuses and a way to deter force, but also as a way to deter false accusations against the police department,” Resnick said.

A handful of Madison residents spoke at the meeting, some raising surveillance concerns and others voicing support for the measure. Resnick said he is aware there are concerns about privacy and victim protection that need to be studied and hammered out over the next few months.

“There are a number of legal implications we need to discuss, and that’s why we’re giving ourselves the time to go through the policy decision before moving forward with the pilot,” he said.

Police Chief Mike Koval also voiced some concerns about the proposal, saying cameras might have a chilling effect on officers.

“A lot of these departments [implementing the program] quite frankly start from a position of mistrust, and so the cameras are a way to create some sort of a bridge,” Koval said. “I don’t think that’s the case by-and-large in Madison.”

Koval said he believes Madison is ready for its officers to be equipped with the cameras, but asked for time to adequately study the idea before implementation. 

“The fact of the matter is point-of-view cameras are an element of transparency, but they’re not a one-size-fits-all, cure-all, and I think we have to slow people’s expectations down about that,” he said.