Unrest in Ferguson sparks petition for MPD to wear body cameras

CREATED Aug 19, 2014

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It's the question at the heart of rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri - what led a police officer to fatally shoot 18-year-old Michael Brown?

It’s led to a nationwide push for police officers to wear body cameras. There's an online petition circulating to bring that technology to Milwaukee, and so far, it has hundreds of signatures. 
 
Not only does it come in the aftermath of the shooting in Ferguson, but also an incident closer to home. There was outrage locally over the death of Dontre Hamilton, the 31-year-old shot by a Milwaukee police officer in Red Arrow Park on April 30th. 
 
"If that police officer would have had a camera on him, we probably would have had answers by now,” says community activist Tracy Dent, who started the local petition. "Frustration is at an all-time high. We're tired of revisiting police misconduct issues. What happened in Ferguson, and at Red Arrow Park should have never happened."
 
As the Milwaukee County District Attorney reviews the details surrounding Hamilton's death, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn says he's in the process of getting wearable body cameras for his officers. But the devices are expensive, and the transition into using them will take time.
 
“We will have to field test different ones to see which ones appear to hold up the best, and we’ll have to develop a policy for them,” Flynn describes. “There are pluses and minuses to every new technology. The balance is always between accountability issues and privacy rights.”
 
Some nearby police departments, like Port Washington, Thiensville, Cedarburg and Grafton, do use wearable cameras. But they are much smaller departments, so the cost isn't as daunting.