Madison council moves police body cameras forward

Debate lasted until Wed. morning
Madison council moves police body cameras forward

During a debate that carried well into early Wednesday morning, the Madison Common Council unanimously approved accepting a Madison Police Department report concluding equipping arming officers with police body cameras would cost nearly $1 million.

“There’s been a call to action by our president to implement a body-camera program,” District 8 Alderman Scott Resnick said. “We’ve seen other cities implement it in their own communities. I think we can take the best lessons learned in Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and implement them here in Madison.”

The decision came after a majority of the five citizens offering public testimony spoke in favor of the department eventually using cameras, while a majority of those who registered were opposed to implementation.

Resnick has championed implementing police body cameras in the capital city for months. He said having President Barack Obama promise $75 million to local communities in order to get every police officer to wear a body camera increased the urgency for the council to act.

“I think the process should be expedited. I think we can accomplish this in a public process in about nine months,” Resnick said. “You take a look at the positive, body cameras have been able to move forward. It’s been able to vindicate officers but also show transparency to members of the public and provide protections and accountability.”

However, Madison Police Chief Mike Koval said Obama’s announcement had not calmed his reluctance surrounding privacy issues and the estimated $955,477.10 price tag detailed in a report to council members.

“I think transparency and accountability are excellent watchwords of the day, but not to the extent that I want to rush willingly off the edge of the cliff just to have the newest panacea,” Koval said. “I think technology can be helpful. But I’m worried that we have over-expectations for what its usefulness will be in the long term. And I think that’s where I’m cautioning some measure of restraint.”

“I think we’re fine for accepting the report,” Council President Chris Schmidt said. “We will get community involvement, get community input, work with police and other stakeholders to figure out how we want to frame our own policy for body cameras over the next year.”