Body cameras possible for ECPD


Photo by File Photo

Story by Sammi Wendling, Staff Writer

The Eau Claire Police Department may soon join its neighboring town, Chippewa Falls, and other departments across the country in adding a new tool to an officer’s getup.

An Eau Claire City Council committee will discuss outfitting Eau Claire police officers with body cameras at its meeting Thursday.

The Committee on Judiciary and Law Enforcement will weigh the costs and benefits of portable police cameras — a move Eau Claire police have been considering for nearly six months, Eau Claire Chief of Police Jerry Staniszewski said.

Eau Claire Police are waiting on results from other Wisconsin police departments before making a decision, Staniszewski said.

The Chippewa Falls Police Department has been using body cameras and dash cameras in squad cars for more than a year.

Chippewa Falls Police Chief Wendy Stelter said adding body cameras has saved time and helped police determine valid complaints.

“We’re able to look at the footage immediately to either support and correct the interaction, or show that the complaint was not how it had actually played out,” Stelter said.  “More times than not, the complaint was not how the situation had really happened.”

Without video footage, police rely on witness interviews, which can be time-consuming. Body cameras show an incident in its entirety in a matter of seconds.

Stelter said Chippewa Falls police also use the footage from body cameras to train officers.

“You can play back the footage to watch yourself see what to do,” Stelter said. “There is nothing better than watching yourself to see what to improve on.”

Body cameras are about the size of a credit card, and are clipped onto officer’s shirts. Cameras in squad vehicles only show one vantage point, and the minute an officer steps out of view, the footage is lost.

Stelter said a camera costs about $900, but the most expensive part is a proper server to store the footage. Replacing a server could range anywhere from $15,000  to $20,000. But Chippewa Falls police did not have to buy another server.

The meeting is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Thursday in the Eau Claire County Courthouse, room 1273.