Extra protection or invasion of privacy? Petition started for police to wear body cameras

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The debate is brewing as Milwaukee leaders consider using body cameras on police officers.  There is a growing petition online to try and stop events like those in Ferguson, Missouri from happening here.

FOX6 News is told the Milwaukee Police Department has already tested cameras on a small group of officers.  They are trying to be part of a larger pilot program that could expand to 50 cops on the street.

"We're serious. We want police officers to wear body cameras," said community activist, Tracey Dent.

On Sunday, August 17th, community advocate Tracey Dent launched a petition on Change.org to encourage city leaders to purchase body cameras for Milwaukee police officers. He says, it's a response to the riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

"Tensions are high. We need to start defusing the situation," Dent says.

At Red Arrow Park -- where police officer fatally shot 31-year-old Dontre Hamilton during a scuffle this past April.

"Right now, the people just do not trust the police officers. We have to start reversing that," said Dent.

The small cameras work by recording interactions police officers have with citizens, and also documenting calls for service. It's a concept Milwaukee police chief Ed Flynn is already looking into. But questions still remain.

"If everyone who wants us to have cameras on us all the time - there are people who are worried about what this means for their privacy when we show up at a family dispute or some other husband/wife incident or something," said Milwaukee Police Chief, Ed Flynn.

Additionally, there are concerns about cost. Wednesday night, Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski called upon Mayor Tom Barrett to include funds in the 2015 budget to purchase the equipment. If he doesn't, Zielinski says he will be introducing a budget amendment to include them. Barrett says the city is still researching the topic.

"Part of the challenge is making sure the technology doesn't outpace us.  We don`t want to buy so many cameras and they`ll be obsolete before they are even put into operation," said Milwaukee Mayor, Tom Barrett.

Dent says his goal is to reach 2,000 signatures before he hands over a physical copy of the petition to various city leaders.

"It`s a start.  It`s a starting point.  It`s going to take its different layers.  Right now, we`re just shaving off one layer when it comes to trust," Dent said.

Dent says it's promising to hear the chief say the department is already looking into it.

7 comments

    • Navyvet

      Agreed…on the outside, sounds like a good plan, but just as any new thing, it’ll have it’s bugs, pros, and cons. Waste of money if you ask me. Keep up the excellent policing of our communities, don’t let a few voices drown out our freedoms. If community leaders would spend half the time they spend whoring out on HLN and FOX, doing nothing but instigating the tensions…on more productive peace talks, outreach programs…ones where we prevent firearms from ending up in the wrong hands, and keeping youth from converting to criminal behavior to begin with, this country would be a much safer, pleasurable, place to live.

  • Carl

    Privacy concerns? Ya right. Most, if not all police cars are equipped with a recording device. As soon as the lights are turned on the recording starts. Every police encounter on the street is recorded. Every citizen has the right to record police activity as there is no expectation of privacy in a public place, as stated by the USSC. The police don’t care about your privacy, it’s an excuse because it is during domestic calls in which the most police abuse’s of power happen. They happen during traffic stops also but it is usually during a domestic call where citizens are beaten up or shot by overzealous cops. The police don’t want accountability; in this perpetual Police State all that they want is power and immediate compliance. In Rialto, CA, body camera use by police caused an almost 80% drop in citizen complaints and law suits. Those numbers don’t lie. Cameras work whether in the hands of citizens or on the uniform of a cop. The police also don’t want informed citizens who know their ‘rights’ and are not afraid to use them. Call the police at your own risk.

  • Samara

    Privacy of the police is irrelevant since tgis would only take place during times they were working, when their privacy is not guaranteed. I can certainly see tge concern regarding privacy for those whom they encounter, though. Would the recordings become public record? Would others be able to request them with something like an open records request? As a DV survivor, im sure there are some victims of crimes who may not want footage of them to be accessible to all.

  • Jeri Burke

    Very well said Carl!!! You are 100% correct!! Put the camera’s on them and add some sort of penalty if they turn them off, or the recording gets “lost”.

  • Terri Badger-Ellzey

    Carl, you did provide good feedback to the need for cameras. I believe poice should wear cameras. Until the beating of Rodney King with a person who video taped this there would have never been any standards of accountability and abuse of power by law enforcement. I feel with the history of some cops and their unethical behaviors, “Yes” there should be cameras. Like Carl stated this could prevent the need for million dollar law suits that will eventually happen due to cops who abuse their authority which happens more than one will like to believe. Thank God to cameras there are a lot of unreported incidents. Ferguson just happened to be the latest of many but police abuse happens more than one cares to admit. For people who oppose this idea eventually they may run into a situation where they may experience some abuse of power. As an African American because we are forced to have less power we do not really have privilege status but for those who do, find out what it feels like and see how it will feel and know then if this topic becomes important to you.

  • grunt

    Careful what you wish for. I’ll bet the cameras will show what animals the police deal with on a daily basis.

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