Earlier this month several area legislators introduced a state grant program for law enforcement agencies to purchase or upgrade body cameras.
The bill would also provide standards for the use of body camera purchases under the grant.
“Body cameras have a number of public safety benefits including increasing officer safety, providing evidence for trials, and increasing transparency between communities and law enforcement,” Rep. Tip McGuire, D-Kenosha, a former prosecutor in both Kenosha and Milwaukee counties, stated in a news release.
“However, the upfront cost of body cameras is significant. This program would ensure that any municipality that wants the benefits of body cameras can access them.”
Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, echoed his comments saying, “Body cameras are a critical tool that can yield essential insights, transparency, and accountability in encounters between the public and law enforcement officers.”
“This bill is designed to make it easier for police departments throughout Wisconsin to deploy this technology for the safety of everyone in our community.”
LRB-5787 would create a grant of up to $1 million for law enforcement agencies to purchase or upgrade body cameras. The grants would be outright, not matching. The bill does not set limits on how much one agency could receive; that would be determined by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which would administer the program.
In Racine County, there have been two highly scrutinized police involved shooting – Donte Shannon on Jan. 17, 2018 and Tyrese West on June 15, 2019.
In the case of Shannon’s death, the Racine officers did not have body cameras at the time of the 2018 shooting. In the case of West’s death, the officer had a body camera but he didn’t turn it on. New technology would have prevented that because now many of the cameras automatically turn on if squad lights are turned on or if the car is going at least 75 miles per hour.
While there were thorough investigations done for both shootings, there are still many things we can never really know. Body camera footage would have been one of the only ways to truly know what officers saw.
Since that time, the coronavirus has hit our entire nation.
Everyone’s budget is going to be tight after the pandemic passes. But this grant shouldn’t go by the wayside.
It continues to be vital for law enforcement to have body cameras. It helps in court because the video will not lie and it builds trust with the public.
It’s for the safety of everyone in the community.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!