Body-Cams Come To Minnesota’s Largest PD
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minneapolis Police Department, the largest in Minnesota, has become the latest to equip its officers with body cameras in what officials say is an effort to improve transparency and hold police accountable.
Thirty-six officers will test two camera models over the next several months, with plans to roll them out department-wide by late 2015.
Studies show departments that use body cameras have seen a decrease in use of force and a decrease in complaints against officers.
Some critics welcome the cameras but say they're concerned that officers have discretion to turn the devices off, and there are concerns about privacy.
Here's a rundown of some of the issues:
USE OF BODY CAMERAS IN MINNESOTA
Police agencies of all sizes in Minnesota, from St. Paul to Spring Lake Park, are considering body cameras, and some already use the devices.
The Burnsville Police Department became Minnesota's first to deploy body cameras when it started a pilot program in 2010, and Duluth began using them widely in September after a test period.
Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association Executive Director Andy Skoogman said several departments have equipped some of their officers with cameras, and it's anticipated that more will use the technology in the future.
Minneapolis Chief Janee Harteau told the city's committee on Public Safety, Civil Rights and Emergency Management that the cameras will provide another layer of transparency and accountability.
"In addition, this technology will protect our officers from false and frivolous claims, saving time and money in the process," Harteau said.
A yearlong study of the Rialto, California, police department found a 60 percent decrease in officer use-of-force incidents after the cameras were put into use.
Shifts without cameras experienced twice as many use-of-force incidents as shifts without cameras.
A study in Mesa, Arizona, found that during the first eight months of using body cameras, officers who didn't use them had almost three times as many complaints as the officers who wore them.
Minnesota departments can point to real examples of benefits.
Eric Gieseke, police chief in Burnsville, said someone recently complained that an officer who wrote a parking ticket had gone through the person's car.
The officer had a camera at the time, and the video showed the allegation wasn't true.
In Duluth, a body camera was used to help catch a man who fled from police during a traffic stop.
An officer wearing a body camera pulled a still image from the video and distributed it, and the suspect was caught, said Duluth Police spokesman Ron Tinsley.
Critics also welcome the cameras, but have concerns.
Minneapolis City Council member Cam Gordon questioned at one committee meeting why officers would have the discretion to turn the cameras off.
Deputy Police Chief Travis Glampe told committee members that officials don't want officers to compromise safety by worrying whether a camera is on.
He said officers would have to explain why a camera was off during an incident that would otherwise be recorded.
Jeff Martin, president of the St. Paul chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told The Associated Press the cameras should be on all the time, not just when police are responding to an incident.
"Most of the problem with police is not in response to a police call. It's interactions that start off mundane and innocent that escalate into something that becomes a tragedy," Martin said.
He said the rule should be: "From the beginning of your shift to the end of your shift, you've got that camera rolling."
Scott Gray, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Urban League, said he believes the cameras are a good thing, but not the "end all" for bridging the gap between police and some communities of color in Minneapolis.
COSTS vs SAVINGS
The city of Minneapolis approved $400,000 for the pilot project, and Mayor Betsy Hodges has requested $1.14 million in capital over the next two years to fully outfit the department with the body cameras, said Kate Brickman, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
The cost of data storage for all that video will be examined over the course of the pilot project.
Factors are how much data gets stored and how long.
A survey by the Police Executive Research Forum found that 39% of respondents that don't use body cameras cited cost as a primary reason.