Soglin: Body-worn police cameras to come, but not only solution

Mayor emphasizes building trust in community

Slow and steady — that’s Mayor Paul Soglin’s game plan for bringing body-worn cameras to Madison’s police force.

Soglin returned to Madison Friday after speaking with the U.S. Department of Justice this week about President Barack Obama’s initiative to fund police body-worn cameras for cities across the country. Soglin said Madison’s next steps will include creating an ad hoc committee to gather information and public input over the next several months, with the goal of program implementation in early 2016.

Both Soglin and police Chief Mike Koval said while they believe body-worn cameras are inevitable for Madison’s police force, they are not necessarily the answer to the problem.

“This is not solely about the implementation of body cameras,” Soglin said. “It’s about something much bigger and more important, and that is building trust and confidence and safety for the people of our community. That’s the priority.”

“[Do cameras] get to the root of what the community feels for the level of trust for the police department?” Koval said. “I think that’s the deeper cause that we have to be drilling for.”

Koval said perhaps a better solution would be to invest in more neighborhood officers.

“That’s where engagement occurs,” he said. “I’d much rather have officers trained, retrained, refortified and given the resources to understand what community engagement is at a grassroots level in the neighborhoods. I’d much rather have those sort of experiences than authenticating what the police are or are not doing.”

Soglin said the DOJ has not decided how it will allocate funds for body-worn camera programs and have yet to address the ongoing cost of those programs for cities.