Just one of the elements fuelling local anger in Kenosha, Wisconsin, over the shooting of Jacob Blake, is that officers were not wearing body cameras, even though city and law enforcement leaders endorsed their use as long ago as 2017.
Ryan J. Foley, reporting for the Associated Press states that since then, they have balked at the price tag, raised policy concerns and put off implementation. The delays meant that officers who were on the scene of Sunday’s shooting while responding to a domestic call were not equipped with the technology.
“This is a tragedy. But at least some good could come from this if this is finally the incident where Kenosha says, ‘we’ve got to get body cameras on these cops right away’,” Kevin Mathewson, a former member of the common council, told Associated Press.
Mathewson pushed the city to buy cameras during his tenure on the council from 2012 to 2017, saying he saw them as a tool to remove bad police officers from the department after a series of troubling use-of-force and misconduct incidents.
Mathewson recalled proposing a budget amendment to buy the equipment in early 2017 and hitting resistance from the mayor, police chief and other council members, who argued that would be unwise without clear state regulations governing their use.
Gov. Tony Evers signed a law in February outlining body camera regulations for police departments. Kenosha then planned to buy the cameras this year, but funding shortfalls and technological concerns prompted the city to push that back to 2022, said Rocco LaMacchia, chairman of the council’s public safety committee.
“We have moved it back so many times,” he said. “I got a feeling this is going to move up on the ladder really fast because of what’s going on around the United States right now. Body cameras are a necessity. There’s no doubt about it.”
Of the Blake shooting, he said, “The body camera footage on this one would have told right from wrong right away.”