Body-Worn Cameras

Body-Worn Camera Program

Following a multi-year process to examine and implement the use of body-worn cameras, department wide use of cameras began in the fall of 2018.

All patrol personnel and detectives are assigned a body-worn camera unit.


Body-worn camera policy

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Body-Worn Cameras

What is a body-worn camera?

A body-worn camera (BWC) is a small, battery powered device, worn on an officer's chest. BWCs are able to record video, audio and still images.

Why does the Fitchburg Police Department use body-worn cameras?

The Fitchburg Police Department firmly believes in transparency and accountability in order to build and maintain community trust and legitimacy. The department has utilized video cameras in squad cars and Tasers for many years and believes body-worn cameras will complement existing technology and community policing efforts to further build trust and legitimacy. 

Body-worn camera use has been identified in both national and local reports on modern policing as a means to improve policing as it relates to transparency, accountability and trust. You can read more about the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing and the United Way of Dane County Special Community/Police Task Force reports below.

What did the Fitchburg Police Department do to study the use of body-worn cameras?

Funding for the body-worn camera project was allocated by the Fitchburg City Council in late 2015. In early 2016, a committee comprised of supervisory staff and officers was formed to examine body-worn camera technology and policy. The committee reviewed best practices and policies from around the country.  

Committee members and additional officers also conducted field-testing of five different body camera models from three different manufacturers. Following the testing and evaluation of BWC units, committee members developed a draft policy 

In October 2016, the committee held a series of community listening sessions to share their work with the community and to solicit feedback regarding the program. You can learn more about these sessions below. 

What do officers record with their body-worn cameras?

Officers record all contacts with citizens while performing their official duties. In other words, if an officer responds to a call, makes a traffic stop, or is performing a law enforcement related task, they will be recording the event.  

Where are officers allowed to record?

Officers record their official duties in public areas and areas held for public use (i.e. a business open to the public). If an officer is in an area with an expectation of privacy (a residence), they will inform the person(s) in control of that private area of the recording. If a request is made to end the recording by a person(s) with control over the area (i.e. a resident of a home or apartment) and absent of certain circumstances (i.e. they are about to make an arrest or they believe a crime was committed by person(s) present at the time), the recording will stop. 

How will I know if I am being recorded?

If you are speaking with an officer and you are in a public place or place held for public use, you should assume you are being recorded. Officers will not generally inform you they are recording.

If you are in an area with an expectation of privacy (your home), officers will notify you of the recording as soon as it is safe to do so.

What if I don't want to be recorded?

Officers are required to record all interactions with citizens while they are performing their duties if they are in a public place or place held for public use. If an officer informs you of a recording while they are in a private space (your home) and you ask them to stop recording, they will under most circumstances (see "Where are officers allowed to record?").

Can I review a recording I am in?

Body-worn camera footage is currently subject to Wisconsin Public Records Laws. A request to receive a copy of the footage can be submitted as with any other police record. Citizens will not be able/allowed to view footage at the scene of an incident.

How long will recordings be retained?

Video recordings that do not have evidentiary value will be retained for a minimum of 180 days. If a recording is not associated with an arrest or major incident it will be removed the server following the general minimum retention period. Recordings associated with arrests or major incidents are saved indefinitely. 

Can the recordings be manipulated or edited?

The original recordings are protected against manipulation and editing. Officers can only view or copy the recording.

If an officer accidentally records an event (i.e. it records in a restroom or while on break) they can submit a written request to the Chief for review and consideration to be deleted. All deleted files will be logged.

21st Century Policing & Special Community/Police Task Force Reports 

A few years ago, national and local events related to policing prompted two reports related to modern policing. Nationally, the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing released their report and locally, the United Way of Dane County Special Community/Police Task Force released their report and recommendations on police use of force.

The Fitchburg Police Department reviewed both reports along with the recommendations. Because the United Way report was a collaboration of local leaders and law enforcement, the department has focused our efforts on examining our progress as it relates to the recommendations of the report. 

Many of the recommendations in the report were either already standard practice or policy, such as the use of squad car video cameras, and several other recommendations were already under consideration. Body-worn cameras are discussed and recommended within the United Way Task Force Report.

In the fall of 2016 department members evaluated our progress in regards to the recommendations of the United Way report. Most recently, in the fall of 2020, we again assessed our progress on the recommendations outlined in the report. Our progress on the recommendations was compiled into a summary report available below.

You can view the progress report, along with the original report from the President's Task Force and the United Way Task Force below.

Presidents Report 21st Century Policing

Click a report above to view or use the links below:
The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing

United Way of Dane County Special Community/Police Task Force Report

Fitchburg Police Department/Special Community Police Task Force Progress Report *UPDATED FALL 2020*

Listening Sessions

The body-worn camera committee held a series of community listening sessions in October 2016 to:
  • Update the community on the body-worn camera program
  • Seek input from community members regarding the program
  • Answer questions and address concerns related to the use of body-worn cameras
Body Camera Listening Session

If you were unable to attend a listening session you can:

Federal Grant Assistance

Funding for the Fitchburg Police Department's body-worn camera program was allocated by the Fitchburg City Council in 2015. In the fall of 2016, the department was awarded a grant by the United States Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs to partially fund the program. As a recipient of the grant, the department received assistance from a panel of national experts in the field of body-worn cameras. This assistance included a review of the draft policy.