Kenosha city budget a factor in police bodycam delays, official says

The shooting of Jacob Blake has brought attention to the issue

Body cameras for the roughly 200 police officers serving Kenosha, Wis., have been endorsed since 2017, but shortfalls in the city budget have contributed to a delay in their acquisition, a city official said.

A lack of funding and technological concerns prompted the city to push its initial plan to buy the cameras this year back to 2022, said Rocco LaMacchia, chairman of the council’s public safety committee.

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“We have moved it back so many times,” he said. “I got a feeling this is going to move up on the ladder really fast because of what’s going on around the United States right now. Body cameras are a necessity. There’s no doubt about it.”

The issue was highlighted after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot Sunday by a Wisconsin police officer.

At the time, the only video immediately released on social media was recorded by a neighbor that shows at least one officer shooting Blake in the back several times as he opened the driver-side door of his SUV and leaned into the vehicle.

A second video reportedly of a different angle of the encounter shows Blake struggle with two officers on the passenger side of the SUV before walking to the driver’s side where he was shot.

Neither video shows what happened before or after the shooting like body camera footage would. Kenosha officers do have cameras in their squad cars, but it’s unclear whether any captured the shooting.

Police in riot gear stand outside the Kenosha County Court House Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. Protests broke out late Sunday night after a police shooting. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Police in riot gear stand outside the Kenosha County Court House Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Kenosha, Wis. Protests broke out late Sunday night after a police shooting. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The city currently plans to buy 175 Axon body cameras from Taser International and a five-year evidence storage and maintenance plan in 2022. After the first year, the city would incur an estimated $145,000 cost annually for using Evidence.com to store video evidence.

Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian confirmed Monday that current plans call for the city to buy them in 2022 — more than five years after city and law enforcement leaders unanimously supported a resolution for the technology.

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While Gov. Tony Evers signed a law in February outlining body camera regulations for police departments, WTMJ-TV reported that at least 16 other law enforcement agencies in four counties across the state do not have body cameras, including the Kenosha Police Department.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.