City News

Body-worn cameras could become a part of Madison police uniforms

Swastikas were found etched onto the hoods of nearly 20 new vehicles at a Madison car dealership.

Image By: Katie Scheidt

The Madison community could be one step closer to seeing body-worn cameras on its police officers, despite privacy concerns that have raised contention among citizens and lawmakers in the past.

If approved in next year’s capital budget — which lays out how the city will fund upcoming and existing projects — a $123,000 proposal would purchase nearly 50 body-worn cameras for Madison Police Department officers on the North Side of Madison.

The project, sponsored by Ald. Paul Skidmore of District 9, would act as a pilot program for MPD. If it proved viable for officers on the North Side, citywide implementation would be the next step, although how much that would cost is still unclear.

While body-worn cameras are widely used by law enforcement around the country, the idea has previously been a hard sell in Madison. A similar surveillance program was proposed in 2015, but was shot down by city council in a 19-1 vote.

While many city lawmakers at the time said body-worn cameras could pose risks for illegal immigrants, Skidmore called that idea “irrational.”

“The opposition was purely political,” Skidmore said. “We wouldn’t use footage for [immigration status concerns]. The camera is amoral — neither good nor bad — it just records what’s out there,” Skidmore said.

MPD Lt. Kelly Donahue told The Daily Cardinal that public concerns about body cameras extend beyond targeting illegal immigrants.

In previous discussions about implementing the cameras, she said, the community has voiced concerns over videos being made available through public records requests — though they would likely be subject to the same agency discretion rules that protect sensitive information.

Police could also develop protocols around when the cameras shouldn’t be used, Skidmore said, like in sexual assault and domestic abuse cases.

The capital budget will be finalized in late November.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Cardinal.