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Police body camera

Madison's Finance Committee amended the proposed 2019 capital budget Monday to include $104,000 for a pilot program to test body-worn cameras on Madison police officers.

Money to purchase body-worn cameras for Madison police officers to conduct a pilot program of the technology was added to Madison’s proposed 2019 capital budget by a city committee Monday.

The Madison Finance Committee backed, on a 4-2 vote, a $104,000 amendment to purchase 47 body cameras and associated equipment to be used in the pilot in the Madison Police Department’s North District. It would not be able to start until the City Council adopts policies regulating the use of the cameras.

Alds. Paul Skidmore, Mike Verveer, Barbara Harrington-McKinney and Zach Wood supported the funding, while Council President Samba Baldeh and Ald. Larry Palm voted against it.

“The benefits have not changed. Body-worn cameras are an amoral tool,” said Skidmore, 9th District, the amendment’s sponsor.

But the fate of the technology — funding for which has been added to, then removed from budgets in recent years — remains unclear as the full City Council still needs to consider the 2019 budget in November.

Last year, the City Council removed $123,000 for a similar body camera pilot during final budget deliberations, with several members citing a desire to wait for recommendations from an outside consultant, OIR Group, that was studying the police department.

OIR’s final report, which came about a month after the budget was finalized last year, did not include a firm recommendation on whether to pursue the technology.

Some council members Monday remained skeptical of any benefits the cameras could provide, as well as leery about how they could affect trust between police and undocumented immigrants and police and those reporting domestic abuse.

Palm, 12th District, said the cameras “are a silent witness only when pointed in the right direction and only when worn and only when on.”

Baldeh, 17th District, said the council should wait to consider a pilot program until an ad hoc committee examining the OIR report makes recommendations on any changes to police policies, practices and procedures. The recommendations are expected by the end of this year.

Ultimately, the Finance Committee accepted 15 proposed changes to the 2019 capital budget and the non-binding Capital Improvement Plan, or CIP, which acts as a five-year guide for how and when the city should fund projects.

Earlier this month, Mayor Paul Soglin released a $336.6 million executive capital budget that puts an emphasis on planning projects in 2019, with modest funding for new construction. The changes made Monday upped the total 2019 proposed capital budget to $341.6 million.

Soglin’s executive budget included $177.5 million in borrowing for projects, which the amendments increased to $180 million.

In other action, the Finance Committee supported using $40,000 to help keep open a Cambodian- and Hmong-focused mental health care center through the end of the year.

Finance Committee members unanimously voted to use money from the city’s reserves to support Kajsiab House after Journey Mental Health Center announced last month that it would close the center, 3518 Memorial Drive, by Friday because it was accruing deficits Journey could not absorb.

The committee also approved $3.8 million in the capital budget for resurfacing and replacing aging infrastructure on stretches of two Downtown streets.

Work would be done next year on West Wilson Street from Henry Street to Broom Street and on North Bassett Street from Dayton Street to West Washington Avenue.

Verveer, 4th District, said the water mains under these streets, which are more than 100 years old, have broken nine times since 2016, including three times this year.

Money to construct the Reindahl Library and provide space there for other city agencies on the Far East Side was returned to the CIP after Soglin left it out of his proposal.

About $16.6 million was added to the CIP to be spread over 2020, 2021 and 2022 to construct the library. Soglin proposed $500,000 be used next year for community outreach on the project, but said he didn’t include any more funds in the CIP because he doesn’t think that timeline would be feasible.

Next week, Soglin will offer his 2019 operating budget, with the Finance Committee to take it up on Oct. 9-10. The full City Council will make final decisions on both budgets the week of Nov. 13.

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