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How will they work? Fire & Police Commission hears public testimony on body cameras for MPD

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MILWAUKEE -- It was members of the public who demanded Milwaukee police officers start wearing body cameras, so it was only fitting that the public had the opportunity to weigh in on Tuesday evening, September 29th on how they want these body cameras used.

Fire and Police Commission hears public testimony on body cameras for MPD

Fire and Police Commission hears public testimony on body cameras for MPD

The city of Milwaukee's Fire and Police Commission heard public testimony regarding the implementation and use of body worn cameras by Milwaukee police officers.

MPD plans to utilize 1,200 body cameras by next summer.

MPD officials say the goal is to begin with 200 cameras on October 12th. From there, the hope is that 300 more cameras can be distributed to officers in December, another 300 in March 2016, and then 400 in June 2016.

But first, the Fire and Police Commission must approve a policy for these body cameras -- that includes scenarios where officers would activate and de-activate their body cameras.

Body camera

Body camera

"It`s more important to me to get the statement rather than have to worry about the victim having to worry about future consequences for being on video," Milwaukee Police Sgt. Doug Wiorek said.

Some of the listed examples of situations where a body camera may be de-activated include interviews with children, sexual assault victims, witnesses who simply don't want to be recorded, or a casual encounter (one where there's no call for service or anything to be enforced.)

When MPD body cameras can be turned off

When MPD body cameras can be turned off

The vast majority of those who provided testimony Tuesday evening said the cameras should record an officer's entire shift.

Body camera

Body camera

"If officers control when and where these body cameras are filming, just how will the public be able to trust them to maintain their own accountability?" Alan Schultz said.

The body camera videos would be considered public record.

Police say to protect privacy, the videos could be blurred or redacted before they are released.

"I`d like to have more information spelled out about how that works and how it may limit the public records request process," Mary Watkins said.

Nate Hamilton

Nate Hamilton

One of the final speakers, Nate Hamilton, said these concerns demonstrate why FPC commissioners need to hold off on approving these body cameras.

"October 12th, which is my birthday, I will not be celebrating the body cameras on that day. They will not come out on October 12th because we are not ready as a community to deal with that," Hamilton said.

The Fire and Police Commission is scheduled to vote on the body camera policy at its next meeting, which is set for Thursday, October 1st.

However, the FPC chairman told FOX6 News if there are still unanswered questions, they'll hold off on voting this week.

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  • MPD Copper

    Personally, I don’t mind the cameras if given a certain amount of officer discretion. A tense, high profile drug stop or felony gun interdiction I believe should be recorded. If I’m mediating a family trouble, spawned from the infidelity of a spouse, should that be recorded and subject to open records? If I find 10 dollars worth of marijuana on a 16 year old kid, do I now have to arrest him or should I use discretion and give him a second chance? Instead of throwing the dope away, I now have to arrest him because it’s on camera. If I throw away 10 bucks worth of weed, I look corrupt. So now, the kid doesn’t get a second chance. It’s jail time. What about a sexual assault? The deepest violations of your human value are now on camera and subject to everyone to view. Do you want me to be a cop? Do you want me to use good discretion or be a robot with no feeling or judgment? I took this job to help others. I am commanded to love others as I love myself, by God. Do you want your police force to be men, or robots? We shall reap what we sow.

    • MPD Copper

      Furthermore, I would just like to add the following: Police officers usually work within the grey areas of the law. If you want to record everything, you will inherently destroy officer discretion. If it’s on camera, it means everyone committing an illegal deed, even remotely wrong, will be arrested. (you can’t live completely legally with our laws and this current, politically correct society, dominated by the media)

  • I vote no!

    Sorry, but I don’t believe our officers should have to wear those things. Maybe they should put them on the officers that are complained on constantly…not ALL of MPD.

  • Thinblue

    Just wait. Every time you call the police everything will be recorded. This includes your most personal information. Your name , date of birth, ss #, address, phone number. It may also include your lifestyle and some other things you may not want your family or employer to know. Guess what it’s all open record. Do you want video of yourself incriminating yourself without any constitutional protection? ????? Not to mention personal conversation that the officer has with coworkers. Total violation of everyone’s constitutional rights.

  • Code of Silence

    Maybe we should put body cameras on our Alderman and Mayor so we can see what activities they are involved in……

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