MADISON, Wis. – Ahead of a community meeting on Thursday, Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes spoke to News 3 Now about a proposed body-worn camera pilot program.
The program calls for 48 body cameras for officers in the city’s North District for one year. The board approved $83,000 in its 2021 capital budget for the program.
Officials debated for years whether to bring the cameras to Madison, and Barnes said he wasn’t surprised.
“There are a lot of things at stake,” he said. “I want to make sure my community is fully informed before making a decision.”
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Barnes said most Madison police officers are in favor of cameras, having seen how they work in other cities.
“You talk to your friends in other departments around the country and state that have body-worn cameras and they realize that body-worn cameras won’t hurt you.”
The meeting comes amid two shootings involving officers in Madison. One involved Quadren Wilson, 38, who was hospitalized after his family said officers shot him five times in the back during an attempted arrest last week.
The Dane County Sheriff’s Office identified Wilson as the suspect involved in a shooting involving an officer, but did not say whether an officer shot him, how many officers fired their weapons, or whether Wilson was armed at the time of the shooting. Officials said the Dane County Sheriff’s Office was not involved in the incident and no Madison police officers fired their weapons that day.
The sheriff’s office is investigating the shooting.
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A second incident involved a man who Madison police say shot officers during an attempted arrest last month. He would have jumped from a balcony before fleeing the police. Officials said the man was shot “multiple times” during the incident.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s Criminal Investigations Division is investigating the shooting.
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Barnes said the body-worn cameras would be a big help in both investigations.
“When our public demands to know what happened, it is our responsibility to be able to demonstrate it according to law,” Barnes said. “I really believe that in either case, having body-worn cameras would have been an opportunity for the head of any agency conducting this investigation… to be able to show at least part of the video, if not all of it. .”
Not only would the cameras increase transparency, Barnes says in his experience, they would speed up the investigative process.
The Madison Common Council is expected to vote on the camera program at a meeting in April. Barnes said he thinks the Alders will eventually say yes to the pilot program.
“Some things you want won’t happen and that’s okay,” Barnes said. “We will have a playbook for when we have a board that values technology, that values accountability, trust and legitimacy.”
Thursday’s meeting will give the public the opportunity to learn more about the technology. Camera makers will be on hand to answer questions, and attendees will have the chance to hold a camera and see how it works.
The meeting will take place at Memorial Union. To learn more, Click here.
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