Madison Finance Committee approved an amendment to add financing for the Madison Police Department to conduct a pilot program for body-worn cameras in the 2019 capital budget Monday.
In a 4-2 vote, the committee decided to add the $104,000 amendment for the purchase of 47 body cameras and equipment to be used for a pilot run that would focus on the MPD’s North District. The program will not be able to begin until the City Council adopts the policies to regulate how MPD may use the cameras.
Alds. Paul Skidmore, District 9, Mike Verveer, District 4, Barbara Harrington-McKinney, District 1 and Zach Wood, District 8, were in favor of the amendment, while Council President Samba Baldeh, District 17 and Larry Palm, District 12 voted it down.
Public Safety Review Committee discusses MPD involvement in schools, body camerasThe Madison Public Safety Review Committee met Wednesday to discuss police involvement in Madison public schools and the possible implementation Read…
“It is the responsibility of this body to actually look at the details and find out if this is an investment for the city’s dollars,” Harrington-McKinney said. “In order to make that decision, we need to look at a pilot.”
Following the pilot program, Harrington-McKinney said that is when the city should look at policy changes, but first the program must happen to look at all options for the city’s police department.
On the other hand, Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, said she continues to not support this because she does not think the city’s community wants the body cameras.
Additionally, Baldeh was concerned with what value the body cameras will add to MPD. If anything, he said, it will increase mistrust between MPD and the community.
MPD Chief Mike Koval spoke at the meeting where he said MPD needs to remain “Switzerland,” or in the middle, on the issue because he does not want to be haunted by the pilot’s potential failure considering the costly investment.
“I think [the officers], for the most part, want to have the cameras because I think that they look at it as a mechanism to combat some of the false narratives about how they’re doing their work,” Koval said.
Last year, after hours of debate, City Council removed $123,000 for a similar body camera pilot program during final budget deliberations. City Council will vote to approve funding for the pilot program in November along with the rest of the annual budget.