Onalaska police officers are now equipped with body-worn cameras

The department invested $148,000 in the cameras and supporting technology

ONALASKA, Wis. (WKBT) — Witness video can play a huge role in the prosecution of both suspects and police.  The Onalaska Police Department spent thousands of dollars to provide each of its officers with body-worn cameras. 

Cameras catch our every move. They are everywhere; on buildings, in our phones and now, on the chests of Onalaska police officers.

“We were able to get 31,” says Chief Charles Ashbeck.

The department spent more than $148,000 on the cameras and supporting technology — an investment Ashbeck believes will pay off “and help us do our job better.”

Each officer’s camera syncs to his or her squad car camera and to the cameras worn by other officers at the same scene. “When one is activated, they all turn on,” Ashbeck says.

Defense Attorney Todd Schroeder of La Crosse says having multiple videos, from multiple angles is a good thing. It removes bias and opinion leaving just the facts. “It really benefits both sides. I don’t think there is a legitimate argument against cameras, because all it shows is an objective depiction of what you guys are arguing happened,” says Schroeder.

Camera costs can be prohibitive. Onalaska received a grant and donations to purchase cameras for each of its  officers. An investment Ashbeck believes outweighs the cost. “I think they are a wonderful tool to help us keep that transparency,” he says.

The La Crosse Police Department has some body-worn cameras. It’s getting more. The La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department will equip all of its deputies, investigators and jail staff with body-worn cameras in June.