Wisconsin Town to Invest in Police Body Cams, New IT Backbone

The town of Beloit has allocated around $30,000 so far for officer-worn cameras and a new server to help manage the footage.

by Nate Jackson, The Janesville Gazette / August 28, 2018

(TNS) — BELOIT, Wis. — In an attempt to boost transparency, the Town of Beloit Police Department later this year will add body cameras for its officers, who already use squad-car cameras.

The body cameras are expected to be fully operational by November, Police Chief Ron Northrop said.

Last week, the police department received its storage server, which will be housed at the department and can hold about 25,000 hours of footage.

Storage of the footage will be based on a tiered system.

Northrop said videos could be walled in the server between six months and seven years, depending on the severity of the crime captured.

Each body camera will be in a constant state of recording and will not have to be turned on manually, Northrop said.

The cameras will not record audio automatically, however.

Audio will have to be triggered manually, or it will activate when an officer’s siren is flipped on.

That feature is in step with the department’s squad cameras, which turn on with the car’s siren.

The Beloit Town Board on Aug. 6 reallocated about $30,000 in capital improvement funds to help pay for the server and body cameras. That money was paired with savings accrued by the department to buy the system.

In total, Northrop said the cameras’ rollout will cost about $75,000. The entire body camera system includes the server, 10 charging stations, six squad cameras and a video camera in the interviewing room.

The department employs nine full-time officers and four part-time officers, Northrop said.

Footage from the cameras will download automatically when officers are within range of the department’s Wi-Fi. Still, Northrop said the officers will place the cameras onto kiosks at the end of their shifts, and footage will be transferred to hard drives based on their criminal classification.

Sgt. Bryan Hasse said the police department saved money by storing footage on a physical server rather than cloud-based storage.

With the cameras, the town joins police departments in Janesville, the city of Beloit, the town of Milton and the town of Fulton that already use body cameras.

Introducing body cameras will improve transparency, Northrop said.

The footage will show the public the day-to-day job of an officer. It also will serve as evidence in some cases, and Northrop said it could fend off unsubstantiated allegations against officers.

“Or actually substantial citizen allegations,” he said.

“A lot of departments are going with the body cams. It’s a little bit tougher for the smaller department. We’re moving forward as far as technology.”

©2018 The Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wis.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.