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Reviewing Wauwatosa Police Department's body camera policies after latest officer-involved shooting

Wauwatosa Police
Posted at 5:35 PM, Apr 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-06 23:27:20-04

WAUWATOSA, Wisc. — The Wauwatosa Police Department says the shooting of a 17-year-old was captured on the two officers’ body cameras and dash camera video.

The police department started using body cameras one year ago, but Tuesday night’s incident was the first time the department’s body cameras captured officers shooting a suspect.

Wauwatosa’s police chief says he has seen the body camera footage of the shooting, but he would not disclose what it showed during a news conference Wednesday.

Chief James MacGillis says it will be up to the investigative agency, which is the Milwaukee Police Department, along with the district attorney’s office to determine when it is appropriate to release that video.

"You all want to see the video, but we have to protect the investigative process, the legal process,” Chief MacGillis said. “I will be as transparent as I can as a chief along with this police department, but the timing is imperative.”

People took to the streets of Wauwatosa two years ago demanding the police department purchase body cameras after former officer Joseph Mensah shot and killed three people in five years while on duty.

After 17-year-old Alvin Cole was shot and killed by former officer Mensah outside Mayfair Mall in February 2020, the Wauwatosa Police Department held a news conference days later to share dash camera footage of the incident with the public. TMJ4 News asked Chief MacGillis why this latest incident is different.

"I'm not going to comment on that,” he said. “Again, I'm trying to protect the investigative process."

The Wauwatosa Police Department says it released that dash camera footage five days after Cole was killed. A police supervisor says investigators are yet to get statements from everyone who was involved in the latest officer-involved shooting.

"This just happened last night and there's a lot of different steps in that investigative process,” Chief MacGillis said.

More than a year ago, the City of Wauwatosa spent $762,064 to equip all officers with body cameras.

Andra Williams is a retired Milwaukee Police Captain who helped choose the Milwaukee Police Department’s body cameras and their policies several years ago. He says given the current state of police-community relations, he believes body camera footage should be released sooner rather than later after a critical incident.

“However, I would agree as well that you can't compromise any investigation because at the end of the day the police department, law enforcement is supposed to be there to bring people, the offenders, to justice and the community wants justice, not somebody walking free because the case was tainted,” Williams said.

The Wauwatosa Police Department’s body camera policy says they must be activated during any enforcement or investigative contact with one exception.

"The only time you basically are not is if you're doing some type of sensitive interview with someone or something like that,” Williams explained.

The Wauwatosa Police Department says its cameras are able to record up to 30 seconds before the cameras are activated by the officer. Wisconsin law requires law enforcement agencies with body cameras to store footage of critical incidents for a minimum of 120 days for review.

The Wauwatosa Police Department says it doesn’t have a policy regarding a time-frame when body camera footage has to be released to the public.

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