Opposing Body Cameras

Letter to Madison’s City Council

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YWCA Madison: Letter to City Council Opposing Body Cameras

Categories: Blog, News


Dear Madison Common Council Alders and Mayor Paul Soglin,

YWCA Madison strongly supports Common Council Proposed Operating Amendment #4 and Common Council Proposed Capitol Amendment #1 to remove funding to pilot body cameras for Madison Police.  The city is not ready yet for body cameras.

In 2015, YWCA Madison assisted the city in gathering community input on the use of body cameras.  Our work found that the primary safety issue for communities of color was trust and that as long as the community didn’t trust the police, they wouldn’t trust police use of body cameras.  The community neither supported nor opposed body cameras per se, but instead opposed body cameras until stronger trust was established.

Today, as the city considers the implementation of body cameras, we see no evidence of improved trust.  The proposed pilot comes without any clear policy guidelines for when the cameras will be used, how the recordings will be shared, and how a review of body camera usage will happen. These policies need to be developed first, with community input, not just by the police department alone. Until this is done, the city should not consider implementing body cameras.

Additionally, body cameras do not increase public safety.  Body cameras have had no impact on either officer use of force or on complaints against police officers. [1]  If we want to address safety, we need to build trust.

This is the third year the council is considering implementing body cameras, and this is the third year we are asking you to not to. That is because the city has not yet done the hard work.  The city needs to work directly with the community to develop protocols that build trust.  Only when that happens can we consider adding body cameras.

Thank you to Alders Hall, Bidar-Sielaff, Furman, Kemble, Martin, Phair, Rummel, and Zellers for sponsoring these amendments. YWCA Madison asks all members of the city council to support Common Council Proposed Operating Amendment #4 and Common Council Proposed Capitol Amendment #1 and remove funding to pilot body cameras. 

[1] See “Why Don’t Police Body Cameras Work Like We Expected?”, Forbes Magazine, October 23, 2017; “Police officers with body cameras are as likely to use force as those who don’t”, Washington Post, October 20, 2017; “So if Police Body Cams Don’t Work, What’s the Solution?”, Newsweek Magazine, October 30, 2017; “ Body Cameras Have Little Effect on Police Behavior”, New York Times, October 20, 2017; “Police Body Cameras Aren’t Helping You”, Huffington Post, October 20, 2016

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About YWCA Madison

YWCA Madison is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities. For 110 years, YWCA has been a leader in addressing the most challenging issues of the day, including gender equity, affordable housing, racial justice, restorative justice, and family supporting wages. Today our programs and services across the greater Madison area serve over five thousand women, girls, and their families. We combine programming and advocacy to move the needle on three key areas: racial and gender equity, housing and shelter, and employment training and transportation.


For Immediate Release
Contact: Jay Young
608.395.2198 | jyoung@ywcamadison.org