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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

By Brendan O’Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) — Milwaukee may soon become one of the largest cities in the United States to outfit all of its patrol officers with body cameras under a proposal by Mayor Tom Barrett.

The mayor said on Sunday that he will include in his preliminary city budget a proposal to spend $880,000 to equip all of the city’s 1,200 patrol officers with body cameras by the end of 2016.

“I want our police officers to be in a position to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that they are acting professionally,” Barrett said during a news conference.

Many U.S. cities have taken interest in supplying body cameras to their police departments after a series of widely publicized shootings by white police officers of unarmed African Americans over the last couple of years.

But the cost of body cameras, which can run from $350 to $700 apiece, has hindered widespread adoption in many cities where budgets are tight.

The cost of supplying body cameras to all Milwaukee patrol officers and video storage would increase to about $1 million in 2017, the mayor said.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said he and many police officers supported the proposal.

“It will overwhelmingly put in context what they are dealing with, what they are trying to do and what actually happened,” Flynn said during a public affairs event at Marquette University last week.

Flynn said during a different news conference on Sunday that officers are being trained on how to operate body cameras with some devices possibly being deployed within the next two months.

Milwaukee officers will have the option to turn off the cameras when they interview the potential victim of a sensitive crime, according to Flynn.

Barrett’s proposal comes as the Los Angeles Police Department on Monday began equipping some of its officers with body cameras in the largest initiative of its kind in the United States, according to local media.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Photo: Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett speaks at a news conference for the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was taken from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster in an armed robbery after it was recently recovered, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Hauck

  • RED

    So the cost of the body cameras is a problem? Hmm, how much are all the weapons they obtain? The body armor, the riot shields, the assault rifles, and all the other instruments they use to oppress citizens? Always got money for those don’t they? I don’t really need to see any more videos to know that the police are a totally corrupt organization with a culture of violence and abuse. Anyone who wants to be honest or isn’t a member of the blue gang of thugs knows this. I know some will say not all police are bad. They may not be all as bad, some may even do some good things. But they have joined a violent racist gang. It’s kinda like saying not all Nazis were bad, once you put on the Natzi uniform, you’re a Natzi.

  • Daniel Jones

    My problem with cameras on the patrolmen is this–that might just make the bigotry detective level, as Ferguson cops went right back to intimidation, the worst carried out by plainclothesmen.

  • itsfun

    The way the officers have become targets for thugs, maybe they need full body armor.

  • Allan Richardson

    Here’s a good idea for a supplement to body cameras, which should remove all of the controversy as to whether a police shooting was a justified response to a threat or just “license to lynch” behavior: GUN MUZZLE CAMERAS.

    The state of the art in miniature electronics would make it possible to put a camera in every police gunsight, with flash that can be activated automatically in the dark. Pulling the trigger would take a still picture LOOKING DOWN THE MUZZLE, and upload the picture with identifying metadata to the nearest internet-capable wireless access point, wifi, wireless 3G/4G/LTE, with all such media legally required to carry the traffic to a web site accessible to the public (after a 15 minute delay to avoid revealing the officer’s current GPS location), with no ability for anyone to remove the photo.

    The trick is to make the actual FIRING of the police weapon dependent upon the successful uploading of the picture. No “shot” no shot, so a corrupt cop cannot hide his or her intentional shooting of an innocent “suspect” by disabling the camera. But neither will bystanders or witnesses who may be prejudiced, or not in a position to see everything, be able to bring down an honest cop’s reputation and career.

    Cop says he drew a gun, picture shows no weapon, not even a hand going for one, just before shooting, cop is lying. Cop says he was resisting arrest, picture shows victim kneeling with his back to the cop, muzzle aimed at the back of his head, cop is lying. Bystander says he was unarmed, picture shows him charging with a knife toward the cop, shooting was justified. Especially when combined with body camera video recordings, the truth will come out due to the impartial electronic witness.

    Who wants to start a company to make these devices?