Green Bay approves $2.7 million body camera contract
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Green Bay police officers will be equipped with body cameras following an unanimous vote by city council Tuesday, Dec. 15.
“It’s certainly not the end-all, be-all with regard to public safety or policing, but I think this is a really important step forward for us,” said Mayor Eric Genrich.
The five-year, $2.7 million, contract with Axon includes 190 body cameras, new squad car dash cameras and new Tasers, as well as software with redaction and transcription capabilities.
All sworn officers, including patrol officers, detectives and school resource officers, will be equipped with a body camera.
The Green Bay Packers have committed $757,839 to help offset the cost of the contract’s first year.
“I’m grateful for the Packers,” said District 12 Alder Jesse Brunette. “We’re one of 32 cities across the country that has a NFL team and that’s really willing to step up and support a community initiative, one they pushed for, but second of all, one that our community is requesting.”
The city will cover the remaining first year cost of $21,600 using funds the department has already set aside for Tasers.
The Packers have a contract with Axon, which will afford the city an additional savings of $169,000.
The remaining $1.9 million over the next four years will be the sole responsibility of the city. The current plan is to bond for those expenses.
However, some alders want to find a way to incorporate the cost into the city’s annual operating budget.
“My fear is if you start bonding for something that is an annual expense, you will never retire the debt,” said District 9 Alder Brian Johnson. “So for that reason, I think it’s very important to find a way to absorb this into our annual operating budget.”
The next step is for the department to write a policy for body camera usage.
“Many, many agencies including Appleton, Oshkosh, Chicago and LA (Los Angeles), have body camera policies, and we’re going to take the best of those, and we’re going to implement that so those cameras are on all the time,” said Police Chief Andrew Smith. “There will be consequences for officers who don’t put those cameras on when they’re supposed to be on.”
A handful of residents spoke in favor of the body cameras at the meeting, calling it a preventative measure that will help increase trust in the community.
“I appreciate that this is being brought to the forefront and being addressed,” said Green Bay resident Kellie Delveaux. “This needs to be a priority. It is something that not only protects the citizens, but also the police who are serving.”
Specifics on when the equipment will arrive are not yet known, but is expected in the next couple of months.
Mask mandate extension
Alders approved an extension of the city’s mask mandate into the new year, with a sunset clause to revisit it at the Feb. 2 council meeting.
The mandate was set to expire at the end of the year in conjunction with the city’s state of emergency proclamation.
“I think it sends a really important rhetorical message to our community that this is a simple, really easy thing to do to keep one another safe whenever possible,” Genrich said.
The extension passed 10-2 with Alders Chris Wery and John Vander Leest opposed.
Genrich chose not to request an extension of the city’s state of emergency.
“In my view we still have a very serious public health crisis, emergency, in the city, state and country, but the reason I am not seeking an extension of that proclamation at the municipal level is because I think we are going to be able to deal with these things pretty rapidly by convening a council meeting, if necessary in 24 hours,” he said. “I think we’ve demonstrated an ability to hold a number of special council meetings. With our ability to do things virtually, I think we have a lot of flexibility. So, I just want people to know that this is really a statement about executive power and authorities working with legislative power and authorities, as well. And I feel like we can meet the needs of the citizens under regular order of business.”