Madison Police Do Not Need Body Cameras

The Madison Common Council is considering spending $83,000 from this year’s capital budget to buy 48 body cameras for a pilot program in the city’s North Police District next year, with the police department covering the approximately $55,000 needed for staff time to process camera footage. This move comes after the city approved an $84 million dollar operating budget for the Madison Police Department in 2022.

MPD’s budget has been steadily increasing every year for over 10 years in spite of community members turning out in large numbers demanding that the city instead spend that money on meeting basic needs in their communities like affordable housing and food access.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore has called this pattern of reduced government spending on public goods and services in favor of law enforcement and prisons as “organized abandonment”. As the government allows capitalists to expand their exploitation of workers and the environment by reducing corporate taxes and removing worker protections, they further create conditions of insecurity for low to no-income people. These conditions of insecurity are largely responsible for forcing people into more desperate situations where the types of harm the state has labeled “crimes” are more likely to happen.

To summarize, the government has decided on a strategy of punishment rather than support. When the state makes an argument for investments in law enforcement and policing, they are deciding that it is easier to monitor and police people’s actions and lock them in cages when they are out of line than it is to address their basic needs. We should always oppose efforts to give law enforcement more funds for any reason, especially ones that involve improving the efficiency of mass incarceration. People incarcerated in the U.S. represent 20% of the entire world’s incarcerated population. Meanwhile, our country only makes up 4.2% of the world population.

Many proponents of body cameras argue that they have a “civilizing” effect on police officers by making them more careful about how they act for fear of legal repercussions for abuses of power. The data that people cite to support this claim is inconsistent. And we have seen many, many, many cases where body cameras have not prevented police officers from murdering unarmed people, usually with little to no consequences. Breonna Taylor's killers and George Floyd's killers ALL wore body cameras.

Police also must choose when to turn their body cameras on or off, allowing them to decide where and when they should be minimally accountable. Police departments similarly get to decide whether or not to release body camera footage, which inevitably results in them withholding footage that is incriminating or makes their departments look bad.

Even if the police were able to get the technology for always-on body cameras and were required by law to share all footage with an independent monitor (as has been proposed here in Madison), the violence of policing and incarceration would still not solve any of our society’s problems which our government has willfully created the conditions for through neglect, white supremacy, cisheteropatriarchy and class oppression.

SAY NO TO BODY CAMERAS IN MADISON! Email your alder at: (and cc us at telling them not to support wasteful and excessive police spending on body cameras!