As technology has advanced and more people carry cameras in their pockets, police departments have increasingly equipped their officers with cameras of their own.
Milton Police Chief Scott Marquardt said when he arrived in July 2015, body cameras were a “major thing” his community wanted.
“The public has a greater expectation of accountability,” he said.
Most law enforcement agencies in Rock and Walworth counties have body cameras, squad-car cameras or both.
All but four of the 28 departments surveyed by The Gazette equip officers with some form of camera. Seven departments use both.
The departments who have neither—the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office, Clinton Police Department, Delavan Police Department and Orfordville Police Department—are researching the idea or actively piloting cameras. Some cited cost limitations or concerns over how they can handle storage.
Janesville Police Chief Dave Moore said his department, which has used body cameras for “well over a decade,” was one of the early adopters in the state. The department does not use squad-car cameras.
“This organization has been built upon the premise of being as open and transparent as we can,” he said. “This is a very good way to show without question what actually has happened out in the field.”
Janesville police officers’ body cameras can be worn on a few different spots on the body, including mounts on the shoulder or on glasses, Sgt. Todd Kleisner said. A wire connects the camera to a battery pack, which is worn somewhere on the officer’s uniform.
Whenever officers are in contact with the public—no matter how minor the incident—cameras should be on, Kleisner said.
Pushing a button on the battery pack activates the camera’s video and audio recording. The camera also records about 30 seconds of video—but not audio—before the button is pushed, Kleisner said.
Officers preserve the videos using cloud storage linked with Taser International. At the end of a shift, they put the cameras in a docking station, and the videos are uploaded to the cloud.
Officers cannot edit or delete videos, he said, although they can review them when writing reports.
Officers label recordings as “general,” which are kept for 121 days, or “evidence,” which are kept for seven years.
Recently, a man claimed Janesville police officers stole items from his car, which Moore called “a pretty serious allegation.”
After reviewing the body camera video, however, Moore said it was clear the items were never in the car.
Police arrested the man for filing a false report.
“Absent the body cam video, it would just be the officer says one thing and the citizen says another,” he said. “It would be hard to conclusively show what happened.”
Many departments said cameras help protect them from false claims.
Cameras cut down on complaints against officers, said Walworth Police Chief Andy Long. Once subjects know they are being video recorded, it “changes their tune real quick,” he said.
UW-Whitewater Police Chief Matthew Kiederlen said the video almost always exonerates the officers because people in emotionally stressful situations can remember things incorrectly. He said when people who make complaints see the video, they say, “Oh, I guess it didn’t happen like that.”
Police chiefs and officers interviewed by The Gazette also said cameras help when documenting evidence that can be used at jury trials, as well as when training new officers.
“It’s another set of eyes,” said Edgerton Police Chief Tom Klubertanz.
Sharon Police Chief Brad Buchholz said having the cameras “keeps everybody honest.” When people know the cameras are on, that might help the truth to get out, he said.
Sharon’s devices cost about $1,200 each, according to a 2013 news release announcing their purchase. Local businesses donated the necessary money.
Various departments listed cost as one of the primary reasons they didn’t have one or both kinds of cameras.
Last year, the Beloit town administrator asked the police department to study body cameras, Police Chief Ron Northrop said in an email.
“The cost of the equipment was reasonable for an agency our size,” he said, “but data storage is costly.”
Rock County sheriff’s Capt. Jude Maurer, who said cost was a factor, also raised technical questions that come with managing body cameras. Who is in control of cloud storage? Who has access? Who is responsible for retrieving records?
He said some agencies had to hire someone full time to handle the records responsibilities related to videos.
The Rock County Sheriff’s Office uses squad-car cameras only.
Maurer also raised questions of privacy. When an officer goes into a home, how does he or she redact sensitive, personal footage?
Moore, Janesville’s police chief, said officers capture what they see in their reports.
“A body camera in a sense does the same thing,” he said. “One way or another, that officer is already in that home documenting activities in front of him or her.”
Information that wouldn’t be released to the public in a report wouldn’t be released in a video, Moore said.
Some departments said they don’t need both types of cameras because one captures everything they need.
Long, from the village of Walworth department, said officers used to have squad-car cameras and then added body cameras. They saw there was no need for both, so they got rid of the squad-car cameras to cut costs.
Evansville police have had squad-car cameras since 2013 and body cameras since 2017. Police Chief Scott McElroy said in an email the cameras created more work to maintain records, but the benefits outweighed the costs.
“It’s well worth the investment,” he said.
Moore said early on the department didn’t have enough cameras for every field officer. It didn’t take long for officers to tell him they wanted their own cameras, he said.
“I think the officers very quickly saw the need and advantages of body cameras,” Moore said.
The Whitewater Police Department had a similar experience when it tested body cameras in 2010. Police Chief Lisa Otterbacher, who is retiring in a few months, included in an email to The Gazette some excerpts from emails officers sent her when they tried out the cameras.
“The first night with the Axon (body camera) went very well. The sales rep was right: The first few hours with it on are uncomfortable, but so is wearing a vest. I soon forgot it was there,” one email said. “The hassle with wearing it (equipment), operating it, and the follow-up with evidence storage will smooth out as we get familiar with it.”
Moore said each department must decide what its capabilities are and how to manage them. If a department decides to use body cameras, he emphasized that it should make sure it has an “easy and efficient” way to download data.
He said police departments should realize it’s still expensive to store all the data.
Overall, he recommends body cameras.
“We clearly believe in them.”
Despite litigation against removal of the Monterey Dam and losing a $146,000 grant, city officials have let bids for the project and believe demolition of the dam will proceed as planned this summer.
In November, the Monterey Dam Association, a group fighting to save the dam, filed a petition in Rock County Court against the state Department of Natural Resources order allowing the dam’s removal. The group also requested a contested case hearing with the DNR.
The association argues the DNR should have taken into account the economic effects of removing the dam. The association also questions the process the DNR used to conclude the dam should be removed.
After the litigation was filed, the DNR withdrew a $146,000 Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant it had awarded the city in October. The money would have helped pay for shoreline restoration after the dam’s removal.
The city in December announced the project could be delayed to 2019 because of the petition and loss of funding, saying the delay likely would add to the project’s cost.
After speaking to DNR officials, however, the city has since determined the DNR’s order allowing the dam’s removal is valid despite the litigation, said Paul Woodard, city public works director.
“Based on that ... we decided to release the plans for bid,” he said.
It’s possible the litigation could result in the DNR order changing or being rescinded, but the city is confident enough that won’t happen to move forward with the project, Woodard said.
On Jan. 25, the city advertised seeking bids for the Monterey Dam’s removal, restoration of the upstream shoreline and construction of a stormwater pond in the area of the lagoon near Monetery Park upstream of the dam. According to the notice, the work includes:
The plan is to slowly draw down water and remove the dam in August. Bank restoration and creation of the stormwater pond are scheduled for spring 2019, Woodard said.
The lagoon would dry out after the water is drawn down, leaving it bare. Depending on the weather, some stormwater pond work could be done near the end of 2018, but the bulk would be in 2019, Woodard said.
The city has done several projects that didn’t look their best until they were complete, he said.
“This will be no different. People will have to be patient as we work our way through it,” Woodard said. “Once it gets done, it looks good.”
The association has voiced concerns with the city’s plan to excavate 45,000 cubic yards of sediment, saying much more should be excavated.
Woodard said the city will use dredged sediment to reshape areas, especially the lagoon.
Association Chairman Jim Chesmore said the city should be excavating 245,000 cubic yards. According to a dam sediment report on the city’s website, an estimated 245,000 cubic yards of unconsolidated sediment is in the entire impoundment created by the dam.
“We want to save the dam, but we’re afraid of the city doing things halfway again,” Chesmore said. “It’s cheaper (to excavate less), yes, but I’d like to see them do it right.”
Woodard said the city is satisfied with its plan, including excavating 45,000 cubic yards and not 245,000.
“It wasn’t an objective of the project to remove the accumulated sediment. I am confident of the pond design,” Woodard wrote in an email to The Gazette.
“I am not sure how many ponds Mr. Chesmore has designed, but Tim, myself and (consultant) Inter-Fluve have designed and built multiple facilities over many years. I am not aware of any facilities in Janesville that are not working,” Woodard wrote.
The Janesville City Council is scheduled to consider applying for three DNR grants, including applying again for the withdrawn grant, at its Monday, Feb. 26, meeting. The council is set to pick a contractor for the work at its March 12 meeting, officials said.
The litigation in Rock County Court is on hold until after a contested case hearing with the DNR.
Local • 2A-3A
Dirt bikes take to the ice
That humming roar you might have heard Saturday was coming from Lake Koshkonong, where riders bring their dirt bikes to ride on the ice in winter. Contrary to what some might think, traction on the ice can be better than dirt, said Lance Wollin, who has been going out to the lake with other riders for the last 20 years. Riding on the ice requires special tires equipped with studded treads, however.
Snow emergency declared today
The city of Janesville declared a snow emergency starting at 5 a.m. today. All parked vehicles must be removed from city streets and public parking lots until the streets are completely plowed, according to a city news release. Violators could be ticketed. Between 2 and 3 inches of snow are being forecast for Saturday into today, according to the release.
nation/world • 9B-10B
Trump claims memo vindicates him
President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed complete vindication from a congressional memo that alleges the FBI abused its surveillance powers during the investigation into his campaign’s possible Russia ties. But the memo also includes revelations that might complicate efforts by Trump and his allies to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry.
The stock market has finally found something to fear.
For more than a year, investors have brushed off bombastic talk about nuclear war, dysfunction on Capitol Hill and other worrisome situations. The Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 glided to record after record, with few hiccups.
This week, the calm cracked. The stock market finally got spooked by an ongoing sell-off in bonds. As bond prices fall, their yields go up, a signal of rising interest rates. Low interest rates have been an underpinning of the current bull market in stocks, now in its ninth year.
On Friday, the rate on the 10-year Treasury note jumped to a four-year high. The Dow and S&P 500 each lost around 4 percent, their worst week since January 2016. On Friday, the Dow dropped 665 points, or 2.5 percent. Some earnings-related selling in big names such as Apple and Exxon Mobil added to the swoon.
Some investors believe the market can recover, noting that both global economic growth and corporate earnings remain strong. One hallmark of this bull market has been investors’ willingness to buy the dips. This week’s drop could test their resolve.
Since the Great Recession, ultra-low interest rates have made it easier for businesses and companies to borrow. They also have pushed investors into buying stocks by minimizing the interest payments from bonds.
Rates were due to rise, and investors cast a wary eye on the 10-year Treasury as it rose earlier this year. Those concerns hit a high point on Friday after a U.S. government report said wages last month rose at the fastest pace in eight years.
Bigger paychecks are a welcome sight for workers, but can also signal that inflation is about to pick up across the economy. Inflation has been relatively dormant since the recession. This week, the Federal Reserve said it expects inflation to finally pick up this year.
The Fed could raise interest rates more quickly than investors are prepared for if inflation accelerates at too fast a pace. That could further upset markets, which have seen an unusual lack of volatility for more than a year. After Friday’s jobs report, some economists raised their forecast for Fed rate increases this year to four from three.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 2.84 percent Friday from 2.79 percent late Thursday and from 2.41 percent at the start of the year. It’s at its highest level since 2014.
“We are rapidly approaching the point at which low rates will no longer provide support to the equity market,” said Eric Winograd, senior U.S. economist at AllianceBernstein.
Those concerns echoed worldwide. Other markets around the world were similarly weak as interest rates climbed. The German DAX index lost 4.2 percent over the week, and South Korea’s Kospi index lost 1.9 percent.
Investors have cited low interest rates are one reason they’ve continued to buy stocks, even as prices rose faster than corporate earnings. By that measure, the price-earnings ratio, the S&P 500 is close to the most expensive it’s been in many years, adjusted for inflation.
Higher interest rates tend to make investors less willing to pay high price-earnings ratios. Hence all the focus on exactly how many times the Fed will raise rates this year.
Still, many fund managers and analysts say they’re optimistic stocks can keep rising, even if interest rates continue to climb. As long as inflation doesn’t spike out of control, stocks can rise if earnings continue to grow.
Many analysts expect earnings to keep growing because of the strength in the global economy. Few economists see a recession striking anytime soon.
The strengthening economy is translating into not only stronger profits for companies but also better sales, something that investors have been keen to see.
Roughly half the companies in the S&P 500 have given updates on their performance for the last three months of 2017, and 79 percent of them have reported stronger revenue for the quarter than analysts expected, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. That compares with 67 percent a quarter earlier.
What makes this past week’s market drop particularly noticeable for investors is how rare a decline has been for stocks. Before Friday, the last time the S&P 500 index fell 2 percent in a day was in September 2016.
But historically, pullbacks for stocks are normal, and investors shouldn’t be surprised if stocks drop by 5 percent or even 10 percent before they begin rising again.