Following advice of a citizen-led panel, Madison police officers won’t start wearing body cameras any time soon, the City Council decided Tuesday.
Instead, the city will first focus on another citizen-led effort looking at how to build trust between police and the community, especially vulnerable populations. A body camera pilot program could be part of later efforts.
In another big move, the council decided the city will allow only three development teams to compete to realize the massive Judge Doyle Square project south of Capitol Square.
The three development teams — Doyle Square Development of Madison and Middleton, and Beitler Real Estate Services and Vermilion Development, both of Chicago — were among four teams to offer proposals in May.
The fourth, JDS Development, was initially selected for exclusive negotiations but its proposal collapsed when its cornerstone tenant, Exact Sciences Corp., recently announced it would expand at University Research Park on the West Side.
On body cameras, the council on an overwhelming voice vote followed recommendations offered earlier in the fall from a citizen-led panel asked to study whether Madison should use the devices and develop policies and procedures.
The Community Policing and Body Camera Ad Hoc Committee spent the summer exploring issues and on Sept. 2 voted 4-2 against a proposal to equip officers from one of the department’s five districts with body cameras for testing in 2016. The committee didn’t get far enough into the process to come up with any operating rules.
At the time, ad hoc committee co-chairs said testimony from focus groups, including minorities and victims of domestic abuse, showed the city wasn’t ready for the cameras but should focus on ways to improve trust and cooperation between the police and the community.
“We need to pay attention to concerns of the community first,” ad hoc committee chair Veronica Lazo said Tuesday. “We’re not opposed to cameras being used ever.”
Jacquelyn Boggess, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Family Policy and Practice, which conducted extensive interviews with community members considered vulnerable — such as minorities, victims of domestic violence and people in low-income neighborhoods — said there was no strong sentiment for or against body cameras, but that participants felt cameras would not improve resident safety.
Among concerns were police manipulation of cameras, a false sense of security, and privacy, Boggess said. Although participants voiced support or understanding of policing, there is mistrust, fear and concern about racial profiling, she said, adding that vulnerable citizens feel police are afraid of them and act that way.
“People don’t trust. People are afraid. People are afraid for their lives,” she said.
The council on Tuesday named final members to the new Madison Police Department Policy and Procedure Review Ad Hoc Committee, which will include three members of the body camera committee. The new committee, which will have its first meeting Wednesday, is asked to complete a thorough review of police department policies, procedures, culture and training using an expert’s report, public testimony and other resources.
“The need of trust building needs to happen urgently,” said Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, 5th District.
The possibility of moving forward with body cameras gained some momentum last week when the city’s Public Safety Review Committee voted to try a limited camera pilot program.
“It’s not a panacea,” said Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District, a Public Safety Review Committee member. “It’s a tool, an important tool. It will improve transparency.”
On Judge Doyle Square, the city in May began exclusive negotiations with JDS, composed of the Hammes Co. of Madison and Majestic Realty of Los Angeles, and set the three others aside.
The talks resulted in a $200 million project with up to 357,000 square feet of office space for Exact Sciences, a 216-room hotel, commercial space, a bicycle center and 1,250 parking spaces. It required a $46.7 million public investment.
After the JDS proposal collapsed, Mayor Paul Soglin and Downtown Ald. Mike Verveer, 4th District, sought to re-engage JDS and the three other development teams. But the Board of Estimates last week recommended the city reopen the process to any developer.
On Tuesday, Ald. Chris Schmidt, 11th District, offered an amendment approved on an overwhelming voice vote that confines the process to the three remaining development teams. The amended resolution asks the teams to confirm continuing interest by Wednesday and to identify any project changes within 60 days. The city’s negotiating team would complete a review and seek further council direction by the end of February.
The amended resolution has a series of requirements, including a minimum 250-room hotel, city ownership of parking, an option for all-underground parking, and strict requirements for city tax increment financing (TIF) support.
Soglin did not publicly oppose and Verveer supported the changes. “All we simply want is a smooth path forward,” Verveer said. “It puts some desperately needed certainty to development teams considering this.”
In other business Tuesday, the council created a requirement for certain contractors doing business with the city to eliminate questions about applicants’ criminal and arrest records at the start of a hiring process. The council rejected a proposal to prohibit registered lobbyists from serving on city committees.