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Third of Wisconsin police in survey report no body cameras

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — More than a third of Wisconsin law enforcement agencies that responded to a new survey said they don’t use body cameras, according to findings released Thursday.

The state Department of Justice released the findings from a survey of 553 agencies conducted in November. The survey asked about the agencies’ use of body and squad car cameras.

Of the 434 departments that answered the questions about the cameras, 160, or 36%, said they don’t use body cameras at all.

Three-quarters of the 274 agencies that do use body cameras said they had enough devices so every officer has a dedicated camera. Other agencies said officers exchanged cameras during shift changes, only specific officers had their own cameras or not every officer uses a camera.

Police use of body cameras has come to the forefront nationally in the wake of shootings by police over the past year. Advocates contend the cameras offer an unbiased view of what actually transpires during such encounters.

Twenty-six Wisconsin departments said their body-camera policy was not available to the public. Another 22 said they didn’t have any official body-camera policy.

Just under 50% of departments with body cameras said they keep footage that’s irrelevant to criminal activity or court proceedings for three to six months. Another 87 departments said they preserve footage even longer.

Fifty-four agencies said they don’t use body or squad car cameras. Nearly 90% of those departments cited the cost of buying the devices and preserving footage. Nearly two-thirds of those departments have an operating budget of less than $1 million, the survey found.

Departments queried included University of Wisconsin campus police, sheriff’s departments and the State Patrol as well as local police departments statewide.

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