Eau Claire police officers will be outfitted with body-worn cameras next year under a revised plan for spending on city projects.
City Manager Dale Peters announced during a Tuesday evening work session that he is making changes to the city’s 2021-25 capital improvement plan to accelerate funding for the cameras.
“I will be submitting a revised CIP to move the body-worn camera program up into 2021,” he told the City Council.
The cameras had been originally scheduled for 2022 to 2023 as part of an $805,000 project that also upgrades current video systems in squad cars and police interview rooms for both city police and the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office.
Public outcry following the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while he was being arrested by police has included discussion of improving police accountability and transparency with methods including body cameras. A local petition submitted to the city last month urged Eau Claire officials to move up funding for those cameras.
During the past month, Peters has been researching how that could be done.
On Tuesday he showed that delaying other city projects will free up money to pay for the body cameras.
Installing a new roof on the Lakeshore Park shelter, buying a utility tractor for park use and replacing aging weather sirens will be delayed to free up money in the budget.
“This is just moving them around in terms of scheduling,” Peters said.
In addition to buying the devices themselves, the new cameras will also come with annual costs.
That includes a new employee in the police department who will cost $80,000 between salary and benefits, Peters estimated. Software licensing costs for the video storage equipment is expected to cost $18,000 each year. Those ongoing costs will be discussed in autumn for the city’s 2021 operating budget.
Upon hearing the police department will seek an additional position, Councilwoman Mai Xiong noted that there have been residents calling for “defunding the police.” She questioned how the increased funding associated with body cameras could clash with that desire for deeper scrutiny of law enforcement spending.
Peters responded that managing the data and records that come with cameras worn by every officer will require a new employee.
“When we implement systems, they take personnel to run and operate,” he said.
Following Floyd’s death and resulting protests in Eau Claire, Councilman Andrew Werthmann said public interest in city spending on law enforcement has risen.
“We’ve been seeing a very intense and engaged community in our budget this year,” he said.
There will be a public discussion on the city’s proposed 2021-25 capital improvement plan on July 27. The City Council will then vote on the plan the following day.
Projects slated for 2021 will become part of next year’s city budget, which will be discussed and decided in autumn.