Today is election day, and in Madison, Wisconsin, the winner may depend on the issue of police body cameras.
Madison police officers currently do not wear body cameras, a pilot program being scrapped last year due to budget costs. A recent statewide study conducted by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association revealed that 94% of people surveyed were in favor of officers wearing body cameras.
WKOW interviewed both mayoral candidates – one in favor of cameras, and one against. The candidate in favor – incumbent Mayor Paul Slogin, said that cameras aid in figuring out exactly what happened in an incident, and can help in avoiding violent confrontations in the future. The opponent – candidate Satya Rhodes-Conway, is concerned about privacy. Rhodes-Conway also said that “giving up privacy for safety is something that we should be used to in the 21st century.”
Let us be reminded of the words of Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Rhodes-Conway may have a valid point, but in today’s anti-cop atmosphere, the advantages of the body camera may outweigh the disadvantages. Many people forget that every encounter with police – filmed or not filmed – is accessible by the public through the Freedom of Information Act, more commonly known as “Open Records Law.” Also keep in mind that an officer’s body camera is not on all the time. This would surely be an invasion of privacy, as discussed in an article by Chief Brandon del Pozo from Burlington, Vermont.
So, what are your thoughts? Body cameras are intended to keep both the officer and the suspect accountable for their actions. In this case, is the safety of the officer and the citizen worth the sacrifice of our safety?