An amendment allocating $83,000 for a police body-worn camera pilot program was approved by the Madison Finance Committee on Tuesday and will advance to final deliberations for the 2021 Capital Improvement Plan.
The Finance Committee voted 4-2 to approve the body-worn camera pilot program, which would fund 48 body cameras for police officers. The City Council will decide in November whether or not to include it or not in the 2021 Capital Improvement Plan.
Ald. Barbara Harrington-McKinney brought the budget amendment forward. She felt that advancing with the pilot program was necessary to provide accountability and transparency to the community. Harrington-McKinney specifically referred to George Floyd, whose death was recorded on body cameras worn by the four officers involved.
“One of the things I want the committee to consider is the cost to the city if we do not have the cameras,” said Harrington-McKinney. “I want the committee to really consider how it is so important for us to have that vision. Is it a panacea, no it's not, but it will have eyes. It will have verbiage and footage.”
The amendment received a majority vote, despite the City Council not yet receiving a conclusive report from the Body-Worn Feasibility Review Committee. The ad hoc committee was established in April at the recommendation of a previous committee created to study the Madison Police Department after the death of Tony Robinson in 2015.
“The reason is that I wanted to be proactive. I wanted the considerations that I am going to be moving forward to be part of the conversation,” said Harrington-McKinney.
While the amendment will go forward with possible approval for next year's budget, the committee added language to make the program dependent on the final feasibility report regarding body camera use by MPD.
Objections came from Ald. Rebecca Kimble and Ald. Keith Furman. While they were not opposed to body cameras, both alders wanted the Council to wait for a recommendation from the Body-Worn Feasibility Review Committee.
“To me, this is flying in the face of a five-year-long process which is almost at the end,” said Kimble. “I feel we need to wait for that.”