Madison Police Chief Mike Koval (right): 'At the end of the day, municipalities like our own are constantly weighing what we can afford.'
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval says one of the main issues his department is considering when it comes to body cameras is whether one will be needed for every police officer.
He told members of the Public Safety Review Committee Tuesday night the most "fiscally responsible" avenue might be to assign a camera to a police car -- "as opposed to trying to find a price tag for 459 cops."
Ald. Scott Resnick recently introduced a resolution to the Common Council that directs the Madison Police Department to analyze the costs and benefits of outitting officers with body cameras. The department's report is due Dec. 2.
The resolution comes at a time when many cities across the nation are looking at ways to increase transparency within their local police departments, particularly in light of the recent police shooting of an unarmed African American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri.
Resnick, who is a mayoral candidate, says in an interview he proposed the resolution in response to constituent requests. "We've received a fair number of names on a petition asking for a number of things in response to Ferguson and body cameras were on the list."
Koval reiterated his belief to the committee that body cameras are in the department's future. But key issues need to be addressed first, including cost, the right to privacy and potential impact of the practice on the community.
Committee member Merrilee Pickett asked Koval how the city compares to similar municipalities in terms of the number of officer-related incidents and public-initiated complaints against officers. Koval said Madison has significantly fewer incidents.
Speaking after the meeting, Koval says the use of body cameras would likely be phased in.
"From a public policy standpoint, [on-body cameras] hold some great promise," Koval says. "But at the end of the day, municipalities like our own are constantly weighing what we can afford; what's nice to have versus what [we] need to have."
Koval also wants to make sure he covers all privacy issues, particularly because the footage from such cameras could be accessed through open records requests.
"I want to be sensitive that I am not alienating people by knowing that each and every contact with a police officer is going to be immortalized in some kind of tape or digital form," Koval says.
The goal of the report is to identify those potential "landmines" so city officials can consider them when formulating public policy, Koval says.
In preparing the report, Koval said the department will rely on the industry standards for best policing as laid out by the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit organization that analyzes policing practices and policy: "If we're going to do this, we're going to do it according to what these folks [at PERF] have sort of gleaned from other markets and the lessons they have learned."