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.
In general, I think body cameras are a good idea. The technology is such that it is relative light and inexpensive. But many of the details still need to be worked out to balance privacy concerns for the police and the public. Also, body cameras are not a panacea and should not be viewed as such. They will offer one more piece of information to consider when evaluating a police officer’s interaction with a member of the public – or a member of the public’s interaction with a police officer.
Body cameras are, however, another thing that adds to the cost of a police force. That cost needs to be weighed against any potential benefit outside of a mayor pandering to the anti-police community before his reelection campaign.