Due to several high-profile incidents of alleged police misconduct, the City of Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission (“FPC”) is considering a proposal to require Milwaukee Police Department (“MPD”) officers to wear body cameras. On Tuesday, September 29, 2015, the FPC held a hearing which allowed Milwaukee residents to speak and ask questions about the policy. For example, several residents questioned the part of the policy which gives MPD officers discretion in operating the camera.
Samster, Konkel & Safran, S.C. civil rights attorney Jonathan S. Safran, who represents victims of police misconduct, also spoke at the hearing, and questioned the part of the policy which instructs MPD officers to “make every effort” to activate the camera, instead of requiring officers to do so. In addition, Attorney Safran made the point that, under the City’s document retention policy, videos from the cameras could be destroyed before the time period where a citizen can file a Notice of Injury or a federal civil rights claim elapses. As a result, a victim of MPD officer misconduct might not be able to obtain the video from the officer’s camera, which could provide important evidence for the victim’s civil rights claim.
The incident which serves as the driving force behind the proposal for the body cameras is the tragic shooting death of Dontre Hamilton by an MPD officer at Red Arrow Park in April 2014. If the officer had been wearing a body camera, video from the camera could shed more light on the events the led to the shooting. Dontre’s brother Nate Hamilton spoke at the FPC meeting, asking officials to take more time in considering the body camera policy. Nate also commended the FPC for considering the use of body cameras, stating: “I applaud the Fire and Police Commission because you guys are starting to look a lot different by asking questions, the hard questions, that the community needs to be answered.” The FPC will consider the body camera policy at its regular meeting on Thursday, October 1, 2015. Read the proposed policy here.
The civil rights lawyers of Samster, Konkel & Safran, S.C. represent the three young children of Dontre Hamilton, along with their mother. Please continue to follow our Blog for updates on the Hamilton case and the body camera policy.