WAUWATOSA, Wis. - It's been a source of frustration and discussion for years, but the Wauwatosa Police Department is now using body cameras. Every officer is wearing a camera and squads are being fitted with new technology. This, on the heels of some high-profile officer-involved shootings.
Most recently, former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah was involved in three fatal shootings. None were captured on body camera.
This move gives both officers and the public a new perspective.
"This technology is a long time coming for us," said Sgt. Cory Wex.
It's a rollout years in the making, involving a complete overhaul of the Wauwatosa Police Department video system.
"Having additional perspectives can add more clarity to any situation," said Sgt. Wex.
From body cameras and interview rooms to squad video, new technology is in place.
"What you’re looking at is a live view of what the front-facing squad camera is displaying," said Sgt. Wex.
The Wauwatosa Common Council approved the $750,000 overhaul in October on the heels of months of protests after three high-profile fatal officer-involved shootings.
"Body-worn cameras are going to show the public what we’re doing out there, why we’re doing it, how we’re doing it," said Sgt. Wex.
The department says this is beneficial to both police and the public.
"With the cameras, there’s no hiding what’s going on," said Sgt. Abby Pavlik.
The body cameras will always be recording in buffering mode. Officers will activate them when there is enforcement. They'll sync with the squads when the lights turn on.
"It will activate any body-worn camera in about 20 to 30 feet of the squad car," said Sgt. Wex.
Ninety-three sworn officers are currently wearing the Axon cameras. So far, 11 squads have the new technology.
"It really does promote transparency with our jobs," said Sgt. Pavlik.
The department has been using this technology for about a month. They updated the council on it Tuesday night, March 16. All of the video will be stored in the cloud and cannot be deleted or altered. This is the same video system used by several other departments.