The City of Madison Equal Opportunities Commission discussed proposals Thursday to implement body cameras for police officers and weighed the usage of tear gas, pepper spray and impact projectiles by the Madison Police Department.

The EOC discussed the extent of appropriate action MPD should take to respond to protests, which have persisted in the community since May.

Body-Worn Camera Feasibility Review Committee member Luke Schieve said in the virtual EOC meeting the committee is making progress in drafting plans and recommendations, specifically on how body cameras would be implemented at MPD.

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“At this point, we are just continuing to kind of keep our heads down and talking through the different studies that have been brought to us,” Schieve said. “And once we have completed those discussions, which we would anticipate in the next few weeks here, we’ll start drafting our formal recommendation.”  

Schieve said if body cameras are implemented, the majority of the committee endorses limitations regarding how they are utilized by law enforcement.

Some Madison residents have expressed concerns that instead of holding officers accountable, body cameras could be used against Madison residents, Schieve said. For example, community members have expressed concern that cameras could be used to identify illegal immigrants.

Additionally, the EOC addressed concerns about the use of tear gas as crowd control at protests. A resolution by Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, and Ald. Patrick Heck, District 2, proposed a two-step process to evaluate the use of tear gas.

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The proposal requests a report from MPD about how tear gas has been used, coupled with other de-escalation options available to use in crowd control situations if tear gas was unavailable. The second part of the resolution prohibits MPD from using tear gas after Nov. 17.  

“The period between the due date of the study and the enactment of the ban also, I think, provides an opportunity for MPD to adjust their standing operating procedures and perhaps any training that they would need to do should tear gas be banned,” Heck said.

Heck and Bidar-Sielaff’s resolution references a recent report from the American Thoracic Society that claims the use of tear gas during a global pandemic is irresponsible.  

According to ATS President Juan C. Celedón, chemical crowd control agents cause significant damage to short and long-term respiratory health, likely contributing to the spread of viral illnesses like COVID-19. Additionally, the use of chemical weapons during warfare was outlawed by the Geneva Protocol in 1925, after World War II, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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Ald. Max Prestigiacomo, District 8, introduced another ordinance to prohibit three crowd control tools used by the MPD tear gas, pepper spray and impact projectiles ― under a quicker timeline than the resolution by Heck and Bidar-Sielaff.

“When public servants break the rules, there are grounds to take away their tools,” Prestigiacomo said at the virtual meeting. 

Information about the City of Madison Equal Opportunities Commission and the virtual meeting schedule can be found on the City Clerk’s Office website.