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Costs keep police from wearing body cams despite growing public supportSubmitted: 04/08/2019
Story By Stephen Goin

Costs keep police from wearing body cams despite growing public support
WAUSAU - Body cameras can protect police officers and the people they serve, but many departments in Wisconsin don't use them.

They can provide much needed context for difficult interactions between the law and civilians. That was the case for a policeman in Crandon two years ago.

In October 2017, a Crandon police officer was attacked during a traffic stop by a man who was drunk and high.

When the officer shot and killed him, the body cam footage showed he was justified when that man tried to take his gun.

More than 90 per cent of people in Wisconsin support police wearing body cameras, according to a new study by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.

But Axon, a leading body cam manufacturer, says only 60 of Wisconsin's more than 500 police and sheriff's departments use their product.

The Wausau Police Department is one of them.

"Our patrol officers are mandated to use their body cameras any time that they're having a contact with a member of the public," said Wausau Police Captain Todd Baeten.

Wausau PD is so proud of its body cameras, it even posted about them on Facebook this weekend.

"Our profession is one that's under intense scrutiny to begin with … body camera is just kind of another opportunity for the officers to show that they're maintaining really high standards," said Baeten.

But storing all the data body cameras collect can be expensive, costing tens of thousands of dollars a year.

"That's an extremely large amount of money for the Rhinelander Police Department," said Rhinelander Police Chief Lloyd Guathier.

At about $2 million, RPD's budget is more than four times smaller than Wausau's.

Guathier added that the extra data would create extra work, too.

"When you have that much more data, that's more time the employee has to be going through," said Gauthier.

But he said body cams would ultimately be worth it if they money was there.

"We're very supportive of the idea, but it all comes down to cost."

It costs the Wausau Police Department $50,000 a year to store data from body and dash cams, as well as footage from interview rooms.

That's close to how much it would cost to hire another officer, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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