Madison Finance Committee adds funds for body camera pilot in 2019 capital budget

September 25, 2018

Financing to purchase body-worn cameras for Madison police officers to conduct a pilot program of the technology was added to Madison’s proposed 2019 capital budget by a city committee Monday.

The Madison Finance Committee backed, on a 4-2 vote, a $104,000 amendment to purchase 47 body cameras and associated equipment that would go toward a trial run. The pilot, which would focus on the Madison Police Department’s North District, would not be able to start until the City Council would adopt policies regulating the use of the cameras.

Alds. Paul Skidmore, Mike Verveer, Barbara Harrington-McKinney and Zach Wood supported the funding, while Council President Samba Baldeh and Larry Palm voted against it.

“The benefits have not changed. Body-worn cameras are an amoral tool,” said Skidmore, 9th District, the amendment’s sponsor.

But the fate of the technology, which has had funds added to and removed from budgets in recent years, remains unclear as the full City Council still needs to consider the 2019 budget in November.

Last year, the City Council removed $123,000 for a similar body camera pilot during final budget deliberations, with several members citing a desire to wait for the recommendations from an outside consultant, OIR Group, that was assessing the Madison Police Department.

OIR’s final report, which came about a month after the budget was finalized last year, did not include a firm recommendation on whether or not to pursue the technology.

Some council members Monday remained skeptical of any benefits the cameras could provide as well as leery about how they could affect the trust of undocumented immigrants and those reporting domestic abuse.

Palm, 12th District, said the cameras “are a silent witness only when pointed in the right direction and only when worn and only when on.”

Baldeh, 17th District, said the council should wait on considering a pilot program until an ad hoc committee examining the OIR report makes recommendations on any changes to police policies, practices and procedures, which is expected to happen by the end of 2018.

Ultimately, the Finance Committee accepted 15 proposed changes to the 2019 capital budget and the non-binding Capital Improvement Plan, CIP, which acts as a five-year guide for how and when the city should fund projects.

Earlier this month, Mayor Paul Soglin released a $336.6 million executive capital budget that puts an emphasis on planning projects in 2019 with modest funding for new construction. The changes made Monday upped the total 2019 capital budget to $341.6 million.

Soglin’s executive budget included $177.5 million in borrowing for projects, which the amendments increased to $180 million.

In other action, the Finance Committee supported using $40,000 to help keep open a Cambodian- and Hmong-focused mental health care center through the end of the year.

Finance Committee members unanimously voted to use money from the city’s contingent reserve fund to support Kajsiab House after Journey Mental Health Center announced plans last month that it would close the center, 3518 Memorial Drive, by Friday because it was accruing deficits Journey couldn’t absorb.

On the 2019 capital budget, the committee also approved $3.8 million for resurfacing and replacing aging infrastructure on stretches of two Downtown streets.

Work would be done next year on West Wilson Street from Henry Street to Broom Street and on North Bassett Street from Dayton Street to West Washington Avenue.

Verveer, 4th District, said the water mains under these streets, which are more than 100 years old, have broken nine times since 2016, including three instances this year.

Money to construct the Reindahl Library on the Far East Side, which would also include space for other city agencies, was returned to the CIP after Soglin left it out in his executive proposal.

About $16.6 million was added to the CIP, to be spread out between 2020, 2021 and 2022, to construct the library. Soglin proposed $500,000 be used next year for community outreach on the project, but said he didn’t include any more funds in the CIP because he doesn’t think that timeline would be feasible.

Next week, Soglin will offer his 2019 operating budget, with Finance Committee hearings on it Oct. 9-10. The full City Council will make final decisions on both budgets the week of Nov. 13.

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