Funding for Madison Police Department body camera pilot proposed in 2019 capital budget amendment

September 22, 2018

A pilot program for body-worn cameras by Madison police officers could be funded next year under a proposed amendment to Mayor Paul Soglin’s 2019 capital budget.

Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District, who represents parts of the Far West, Southwest and West sides, has proposed using $104,000 to implement a body camera pilot project in the Police Department’s North District. City Council members have debated for years having police wear body-mounted cameras. OIR Group, a firm contracted by the city to assess the Police Department, didn’t make definitive recommendations on the cameras.

“It’s a tool for transparency, and it’s a tool for accountability,” Skidmore said.

Skidmore said privacy policies relating to the cameras would need to be created, such as turning off the cameras for sensitive cases such as domestic abuse or sexual assault.

He also emphasized that creating a pilot program does not commit the city to fully implement body cameras in all districts, but it offers the opportunity to review their merits in Madison.

The Finance Committee will meet at 4:30 p.m. Monday in room 201 of the City-County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., to discuss the body camera amendment, the budget and other proposed amendments.

The largest project proposed would spend $2.5 million on utility replacement and pavement repair on West Wilson and North Bassett streets where water mains have broken several times in the past two years.

The amendment, proposed by Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District, who represents that area, would replace the 4-inch water mains that date back 100 years. The roadways would also be repaired in the process.

Soglin said he would likely not support the street project because of the cost.

Ald. Samba Baldeh, 17th District, who represents parts of the East and Far East sides, proposed spending $500,000 on tree initiatives to support the recommendations by the city’s Urban Forestry Task Force. These efforts could include performing a census of trees and remediation for trees impacted by recent flooding.

Baldeh also proposed spending $100,000 to extend fiber internet service to housing authority properties.

Other proposed amendments would affect the non-binding Capital Improvement Plan, which schedules spending in the next five years. Skidmore’s amendment would plan the $1.25 million construction of a “burn tower” at Fire Station 14, located near the intersection of Dairy and Femrite drives on the Far East Side, in 2024 that would allow firefighters to train in life-saving and rescue measures.

Without the burn tower at that station, Skidmore said the fire department would have to continue renting Madison Area Technical College’s facility.

Baldeh also proposed adding the $11.6 million in general obligation borrowing paired with $5 million in private donations to build a new library on the Far East side — that had been removed in Soglin’s proposal — to the Capital Improvement Plan. About $1.6 million would be spent in 2020 and 2021 to plan the Reindahl Library project if the amendment passes, and the $15 million construction would begin in 2022.

Nearly $5 million would be added to the Capital Improvement Plan for mitigation efforts to reduce chlorine concentration at Well 14, on University Avenue near Spring Harbor Drive, in another amendment proposed by Baldeh. The planning would be done in 2022 with construction the next year.

Other proposed amendments to the Capital Improvement Plan include $2.7 million in the coming years to update Vilas and James Madison parks.

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