Wauwatosa may be the next southeastern Wisconsin community to require all of its police officers to wear body cameras.
The cameras are an issue in Wauwatosa because of three fatal shootings by police officer Joseph Mensah of Black or Latino men in the last six years. Self-defense was ruled in the first two cases. But the shooting of 17-year-old Alvin Cole outside Mayfair Mall in February is still under review. An apparent lack of police body camera footage is a concern for Cole's family.
Currently, Wauwatosa has cameras in police cars, and a half-dozen motorcycle cops wear them. Monday night, Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber appeared before the city's Common Council and supported purchasing body cameras for all officers.
"The time is right for our city to move forward on body cameras, in addition to the squad videos. [I’ve] always been in favor of the technology of them, and the pricing is much more reasonable than several years ago when we last talked about them,” Weber told the meeting.
Weber recommends buying 100 body cameras and replacing the city's squad car cameras with the same brand as the body cameras. The price tag over five years would be more than $500,000. Weber promises to look into whether there are any federal grants available.
Wauwatosa Common Council members voted to forward the camera plan to council committees to work out details, such as management of the system, compliance with open records laws and what sensitive information has to be redacted from footage made available.
Alderman Matt Stippich added that he wants the cameras on patrol officers within six months.
"I want to put some fire under us to take some action on implementation of this,” Stippich said to applause from some of the Black Lives Matter protesters who attended the meeting inside Wauwatosa City Hall.
But outside city hall, protester Percy Hayes said the police plan is short on details.
"Me personally, I feel like they're just trying to please their people and say, 'Hey, we're getting body cams, that's what's up.' But we're not paying attention to the sub-language to it,” Hayes told WUWM.
Hayes says many of the protesters still want Wauwatosa officer Mensah and Chief Weber to be fired. An attorney for the Cole family, Kimberly Motley, says she’s still trying to set up the meeting with Weber that was promised by a Wauwatosa police officer during a recent demonstration in the lobby of Wauwatosa police headquarters.