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Kenosha County's DA has strong words for city over lack of body cameras

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Posted at 8:14 PM, Jan 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 21:14:24-05

KENOSHA — Strong words, in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting, from the Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley over the lack of body cameras for city police officers. But Kenosha is not the only city in the area operating a police department without body cameras.

Kenosha Police

The Kenosha Police Department had no video or audio recordings of the Jacob Blake shooting other than what citizens recorded themselves. District Attorney Graveley released spoke out strongly in report following the decision not to charge any officers in the shooting of Blake.

“The failure to equip officers who work in the 3rd largest police department in the State of Wisconsin with body cameras does a disservice to Kenosha Police Officers and to the Kenosha community,” said Graveley in a statement.

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Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

University of Wisconsin Law Professor and legal expert Ion Meyn says when it comes to trying cases, video is critical.

“When there is video it becomes very important for everybody. Because someone’s perception of an event can be very different than someone looking at a video making their own determination,” said Meyn.

California agencies police video
FILE - This Jan. 15, 2014 file photo shows a Los Angeles Police officer wearing an on-body cameras during a demonstration for media in Los Angeles. Governments must bear the costs of redacting police body camera video before making it public, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday, May 28, 2020, in a decision that was hailed by media organizations but will be costly for cities and counties. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes,File)

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, less than half, 45-percent of police departments use body cameras. The I-Team found more than a dozen local agencies don't use them including:

  • Kenosha County Sheriff
  • Kenosha Police
  • Waterford Police
  • Wauwatosa Police
  • Fox Point Police
  • Oak Creek Police
  • Glendale Police
  • Franklin Police
  • Cudahy Police
  • New Berlin Police
  • Waukesha Police
  • Waukesha County Sheriff
  • Summit Police
  • Elm Grove Police
  • Hartland Police
  • Menomonee Falls Police
  • Mukwonago Police
  • North Prairie Police

The city of Kenosha passed a budget to buy body cameras for the police department. The Wauwatosa Police Department says they have purchased body cameras but they are still training and implementing them for officers.

Jim Palmer is the executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, a group of more than 10,000 active and retired members of law enforcement.

"In the wake of a controversial incident like the shooting of Jacob Blake the public is absolutely within their right to question the authority the officers exercise on their behalf. "Body cameras although they aren’t a panacea, they are going to give us more information than we would otherwise have,” said Palmer.

When body cameras aren't available, most agencies can rely on squad car cameras for audio and video. But in the Jacob Blake shooting, that didn't happen either.

According to Graveley, responding officers in Kenosha did not activate any squad car recordings, and did not record audio from a microphone they can wear on their uniforms.

In his report, Graveley said, "Had those microphones been recording we might have a complete record of what was said during this encounter including commands issued by the involved officers."

Meyn says it’s those records that are needed to repair the relationship between police and the community.

“The idea of having an objective transcript for the public to look at is really important for the community for how we want to be policed,” said Meyn.

We reached out to the Kenosha Police Department on a timeline for when body cameras would be purchased for officers but did hear back.

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