Green Bay looks at body cameras, other upgrades
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Following years of debate, research and planning, the idea of Green Bay police officers being equipped with body cameras took a giant leap forward at the Green Bay city council meeting Tuesday, Dec. 1.
“There have been some changes to the Wisconsin State Statutes that clarified what departments need to do, between that and the support we’ve been getting from the Packers, I think now is the right time for us to move forward on body cameras,” said Police Chief Andrew Smith.
Alders received what is expected to be the first of many presentations from Axon, the department’s preferred vendor, detailing its officer safety plan, which includes body cameras, new squad car dash cameras and new Tasers, as well as an information storage system with unlimited capacity, and redaction and transcription capabilities.
The department began its search for vendors nearly a year ago.
Four vendors were vetted and the department looked into building its own system.
However, Smith said Axon is the best overall fit to address the department’s needs.
“The comprehensive package offered by Axon, really, we think, rose above the rest of competition that’s out there,” he said.
The officer safety plan also includes virtual reality training involving de-escalation situations.
“This is not to replace any of the training that the department has to today, but it will supplement that,” said Kelsey Donohue, Axon representative. “We’re really targeting mental health scenarios. Right now we have autism, schizophrenia and suicidal ideation.”
Cost specifics have not yet been discussed.
The finance committee is expected to discuss costs at its Dec. 8 meeting.
The purchase, including body cameras, would be made in partnership with the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Department and the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.
The Green Bay Packers have committed to backing Green Bay with the initial investment – what that looks like in terms of dollars has not yet been released.
Fluoridated water debate
A renewed effort to eliminate fluoride in the city’s drinking water came to a halt once again.
Alders voted 9-3 to accept the recommendation from the Protection and Policy Committee to receive and place on file a request from District 4 Alder Bill Galvin, filed on behalf of constituent Brenda Staudenmaier, that the city consider taking fluoride out of the treatment process of city water.
The Protection and Policy Committee held several discussions on the issue over the last two months, which included hours of testimony from the public.
During Tuesday’s council meeting, a motion was made to open the floor for public comment, but failed in a 6-6 vote.
This didn’t sit well with some alders.
“I wish we were in (city council chambers) right now, not virtual, so you could look into the audience and tell them, ‘Thanks for coming, go home now,”’ said District 8 Alder Chris Wery. “I apologize. The council, obviously I hate to say it, may be too arrogant, or too lazy, or both, don’t want to listen to you.”
Others felt the committee did its due diligence in gathering information and listening to both sides of the issue.
“I don’t take this vote to not open the floor lightly, I really don’t,” said District 12 Alder Jesse Brunette. “I don’t think I’ve ever done that. But we have 50 attachments to the agenda item, multiple viewpoints, we received hundreds of emails and all the different speakers at the committee level.”
This is not the first time the city has taken up this issue.
Staudenmaier made the same request in 2017, but after it was rejected by the Environmental Protection Agency, the council voted to keep things status quo.
A federal judge’s ruling earlier this year allowed Staudenmaier to resubmit her petition.
District 7 Alder Randy Scannell doesn’t believe the issue should be discussed at the city level.
“This should never have come before us,” he said. “This is not a matter of legislation. This is a matter of science. We are not scientists. I am not qualified to make any decision here. This is grossly inappropriate to be bringing this to us.”