La Crosse Police began the process of implementing body cameras department-wide this week.
Earlier this year they decided on the Motorola Si500 model of camera after a 2-year testing period with neighborhood resource officers.
Use of the cameras comes in response to public demands across the country for transparency in law enforcement.
"When our officers are out on the street doing their job, we don't have anything to hide," said Captain Jason Melby. "Our guys are out there, they're doing their job right and a video camera like this just helps make sure that our officers are doing things on the up and up."
The Si500 combines an HD camera with microphone and it's own interface to manage videos. Officers are not able to alter or delete anything, but they can review and upload on the fly, streamlining the process going beyond the police.
"This isn't just affecting officers," said Officer Alex Burg. "This goes all the way up the chain."
"Having the video there for interviews or somebody saying something, an excited utterance that may come out is important to a case," said Captain Melby. "[It] can be the difference between being able to prosecute and not being able to prosecute."
Under current Wisconsin open records law, much of policy is left up to each department on how to use their cameras. La Crosse Police policy is to turn them on before any official contact made with an individual.
The Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill in November 2017 that would limit what could be released in an open records request. Proponents argued that private locations like the inside of someone's home shouldn't be available to the public. Critics said that could potentially hinder police transparency and make it more difficult for those who accuse officers of misconduct to prove their case.
The measure never came to a vote in the senate.