Waukesha and New Berlin Police Plan to Start Using Body Cameras Soon
Cops from Waukesha and New Berlin will soon join the ranks of police officers adorned with body cameras, a process that appears to be audience-driven but in reality has increasing value to police.
It’s a move that comes without controversy – no local incident has forced the hand of the two police departments in the face of a public outcry to embrace the use of body cameras. Again, this is a decision officials recognize as a sign of the times, and perhaps overdue.
“It’s definitely getting to the point where almost all law enforcement agencies are likely to have it in the future,” New Berlin Police Captain Mike Glider said. “And we didn’t want to be the last to have them. I feel like we’re somewhere in the middle now.”
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“There is tremendous pressure from the public saying they are buying more cameras,” Waukesha Deputy Police Chief Dennis Angle said. “They see it as such an important accountability tool when it comes to officers. It’s really what you hear and what I’ve heard, especially last year.”
Body cameras, along with their sibling components, dash cameras, have come into play in various police cases – sometimes in incidents without their presence against allegations of police misconduct nationwide and sometimes to support claims.
Incidents in which a person may invoke police misconduct can be offset by a video showing evidence of appropriate law enforcement practices, thereby spreading the threat of false allegations, the two departments said.
Additionally, software developments have made it easier for departments to collect and transmit video data to court officials in court proceedings related to arrests.
Many Southeastern Wisconsin Police Departments Are Already Using Body Cameras
It’s not as easy as turning on the camera. Each system has its own software, in some cases meant to be just one part of a larger recording and archiving system.
New Berlin has already experimented with Axon body camera units as part of the department’s measured steps towards integrating a functional system. There’s a lot to learn, Glider said, but the department has already started to climb the learning curve.
“We have already done a test and evaluation phase where our real street agents carried the product and took care of the software, writing and open files (items), so we had a pretty good test, ”he said. . When we actually get our hands on them, we’ll know pretty well what to do with them. “
The goal is to use them by the end of the year, Glider added.
It’s not that the department feels in a rush to comply due to local issues, although the trend is clearly in favor of law enforcement units that end up embracing their use.
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“We feel like the whole nation is heading this way in police work with body cameras,” Glider said. “The public demands transparency in law enforcement, and what better way to provide that transparency than with body cameras and the sharing of images in our investigations.”
Despite public pressure, he said New Berlin police do not view body cameras as a threat to police work. The department had few problems. On the other hand, he cannot deny the high interest.
“We think the time is right, and maybe we are even a little late,” he added, noting that the department also did not use on-board cameras in the patrol cars.
Body camera technology has improved, police say
In Waukesha, the process is a bit more complicated. The city is looking for a “package,” which integrates body cameras with dashboard cameras to create a more complete picture of police interactions with the public.
“We’ve had a very robust team camera program for quite some time,” Angle said. “We have had success in using video cameras in self-assessment, in successful prosecutions, and in a variety of different things.”
About four years ago, the Waukesha Police Department also started searching for body cameras. At the time, this did not look promising as it would have required additional staff to run a separate video program. Such increases in the operating cost structure have been a deterrent, Angle said.
Now the city is glad they waited.
“By not making a decision then, we have reaped the benefits of the technology. As some of these different companies started looking to streamline some of their software and the way it works, we embarked on a feasibility study, ”Angle says.
What officials found was that they could use a combined system using Axon, a brand that was among the early developers of body cameras for the police. The software could link Axon’s team cameras and body-worn cameras, creating a set of related footage – the time sequence from when a police car activates its siren and arrives on a scene. crime, interactions with a suspect and interviews. with witnesses.
All of this, stored on servers, can be sent to the Waukesha County District Attorney’s office when police attempt to return charges or it can be stored for media and public open recording requests, Angle said.
The software also interconnects with Axon’s Taser 7 products, further streamlining the functions of the three application tools. For example, he said, the system could allow body cameras to be automatically activated once a Taser is activated.
“It was one of the most important things that rocked us,” he said. “When we suddenly looked at it and said, ‘Oh my God, can you imagine how we can interconnect all of these different hardware components into one source of software? “”
Federal grant could cover part of the costs
Efficiency isn’t just a subtlety, it’s an incentive. Beyond the complexity that body cameras add to police work, another deterrent in the past has been cost, officials acknowledged.
For larger departments such as New Berlin and Waukesha, implementing a complete system meant careful financial planning, even with a national emphasis pushing towards body cameras for all law enforcement officers.
New Berlin is seeking a federal grant of $ 100,000 for 50 cameras, a major source of funding – but not the determining factor in whether the ministry will implement the system.
“Once we find out if we got it, the city just has to pay a lot less,” Glider said. “But anyway, we’d like to move forward with that, probably in October to get them ordered.”
Waukesha’s aldermen are currently considering the full package deal, discussing a five-year, $ 1.3 million program as part of its capital planning budget. These expenses would also include all available grants.
If that budget is passed as proposed, the system could begin to roll out, gradually, sometime in 2022, Angle said. Details will be worked out later.
Waukesha will base its operations and training on the experiences of others, including some procedural guidelines regarding when cameras should be turned on and off.
“The good thing is we’re not the first to do this, so we’re absolutely going to copy and paste the orders, rules and bylaws from other agencies,” Angle said.
Police: cameras are the result of public calls for transparency
Many of these agencies will not be far from their homes. For one thing, body cameras are nothing new to the Muskego Police Department, which put them in place over five years ago.
Lt. Andy Kraus, a detective who also serves as the department’s spokesperson, said the equipment is a familiar accessory to all patrol officers these days in the city.
“All of our officers, for most of all interactions, will have them now,” Kraus said. “If they were stopping at a Kwik Trip for a quick cup of coffee or something, the body cameras might not be on at that time.”
Even traffic stops are reason enough for an officer to activate a camera, he added. Muskego even outfitted his K9 unit with a body camera for use in dangerous circumstances. “They’ve been very helpful to us,” Kraus said.
For veterans like him, who have been in the department for more than 25 years, there is always training necessary for officers to learn how to activate them. For young officers, it’s already second nature, Kraus said.
“The work of the police itself has not changed, but it adds a new tool for us,” he said.
It is also important to keep in mind the limitations of body cameras.
“These cameras don’t capture everything,” Kraus said. “Their field of vision is more limited than that of the human eye and two-dimensional. And almost everyone wears them centered on the chest, so if something – like your hands in the air – can also block the vision of the camera.”
But he agreed that cameras, a tool favored by the public, benefit police at least as much and can be used in courtroom deliberations.
“We have more than an officer’s word (in disputes),” Kraus said. “That’s not to say that our officers’ words aren’t worth it, but the public now expects videos for the interactions. It’s become something that society wants to see. They want to see this interaction. They want to see this transparency. “
Contact Jim Riccioli at (262) 446-6635 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @jariccioli.