Petition urges ECPD to equip officers with body cameras
On Monday night, the Eau Claire City Council heard about a petition asking to equip Eau Claire police officers with body cameras.
Body cameras were originally planned to be implemented in 2022 or 2023, but petitioners want it to be moved up to 2021.
“Currently we have $800,000 in our Capital Improvement Plan for the implementation of body worn cameras in 2022 and 2023,” says Dale Peters, Eau Claire City Manager.
The Capital Improvement Plan is a document outlining the city’s major expenditures for the year, and is planned out 5 years in advance. This year, it is currently being reviewed and is set to be approved in July.
Currently, Eau Claire police officers are equipped with in-squad cameras, as well as body-worn microphones.
Peters says adding body cameras isn't as easy as it seems.
“It's not just getting the body cameras, but we have to upgrade and integrate all new recording technology including replacing technology we already have in place.,” he says.
The vendors that supply the microphones and in-squad cameras can’t align their systems with the proposed new body cameras, so the ECPD would have to replace all of their recording technology in order to get new body-worn cameras. Peters also says that there would be staffing implications because that data would need to be retrieved, managed, and stored, as well as released when needed.
Peters says that educating officers on appropriate policies might be more important right now.
“Most importantly, it's preventing inappropriate behavior from happening to begin with, so a body camera isn't needed to record a situation after the fact. That comes down to hiring and having strong standards and high scrutiny processes with hiring police officers.”
He also emphasizes the importance of training and in-service training for police officers, focusing on communication and de-escalation.
But Peters says moving up the date of implementing body cameras isn't necessarily out of the question.
“Currently that funding is in the 2022-2023 capital improvement plan. Between now and July we are going to be updating and revising our cost estimates and exploring the possibilities of moving it from 2022 to 2021,” he says.
We did reach out to the Eau Claire Police Department for comment, but they declined to go on camera. However, Public Information Officer Josh Miller did say the department will continue to work with city officials to move forward with adding body cameras.