Freedom Inc. speaks out against body cameras as city committee discusses feasibility for MPD

MADISON, Wis. – Following police shooting Jacob Blake, the topic of body cameras is drawing attention.

Kenosha Police officers aren’t outfitted with the equipment and neither are police in Madison. The city has a body-worn camera feasibility review committee working to make recommendations on the issue that met Thursday.

In the days following the death of George Floyd, police and a city alder heard from dozens of community members seeking the tool’s implementation. One of the goals of body cameras is to provide police accountability, but Freedom Inc. representatives presenting at the meeting said they don’t because the system is set up to protect police regardless of what footage is captured.

“That’s really where I think we need to be investing resources and investing our intentions: Not on just another image but on the power, the ability for communities to intervene and say this was wrongdoing and for the communities to be able to say we can implement and enact accountability based on this wrongdoing, not another angle of watching somebody bleed out,” Freedom Inc. co-executive director M Adams said.

She and other Freedom Inc. speakers made it clear they don’t want police to have more funding for a tool they said further criminalizes Black and Brown people. Instead, they said they wanted investment in communities to prevent police encounters in the first place.

Freedom Inc. has helped organize many local Black Lives Matter protests.

Committee members called this a “touchy subject” and discussed how best to implement body cameras if they make the decision that the tools could be part of the solution.

“I can see the potential for doing good,” committee member Keith Findley said. “No one, though, is proposing the video cameras are the panacea. They’re not going to solve the problem. They’re not going to save everybody’s lives. They’re not going to stop police violence, but they might incrementally make some changes, I don’t know. But they certainly won’t do any good in isolation.”

“Who are we interviewing to wear the badge of honor? It’s a big deal,” committee member Tom Brown said. “In moving forward, I think we are doing something very positive, something that is very meaningful, and something that now, possibly now after all these years, is going to — if put in right proper place and position –it’s going to challenge the way things have been. I believe these things are going to challenge the old paradigm way of saying of, ‘sweep it under the rug, who cares’ to, ‘no, we better look at this more seriously, because these people are banding together and they’re serious.’”

The committee will take into account more data and community perspectives before formulating its recommendation.