Minneapolis police to start testing body cameras

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
A body-mounted camera produced by VIEVU.

A Minneapolis City Council committee voted to move ahead with a test of body cameras for the city’s police officers. 

Monday, the council’s Ways and Means Committee forwarded two contracts to the full council, which is expected to approve the measures. Both contracts were with body camera vendors, Taser International and VIEVU, and worth $85,000 each. The two vendors will each supply 36 cameras to be tested by Minneapolis police officers beginning as soon as mid-October. Results of the six-month field test will allow the department to select a vendor and amend policies and procedures on how officers will use them.

If a $1.14 million budget request by Mayor Betsy Hodges is approved by the council later this year, cameras will be purchased for all of the city’s approximately 800 officers in 2015.

Two council members, Blong Yang and Linea Palmisano, offered an amendment to the resolution seeking more information about the pilot program — and what it will measure. At an upcoming meeting of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Emergency Management Committee, police department leaders are expected to explain how the study will be conducted, how the cameras will work in Minnesota’s cold winters and whether the results of the pilot program will be independently reviewed.

Deputy Police Chief Travis Glampe said the department will report to the Public Safety Committee either September 24th or October 8th. But he said Monday he thinks the police department and the information technology staff within the city is adequate to assess the study results.

The effect of cold weather will be central to the study, Glampe said. “We’re kind of fortunate that we’re getting to winter. They’re gonna work great in May. I have no idea how useful they will be when we’re fumbling around at 20 below,” he said. “We wear jackets, as opposed to Phoenix where they don’t have to worry about putting a jacket on most of the year.”

Other questions are how the video will be stored and how much storage will be needed, which system works best and which of three camera mounts offered by Taser — lapel, eye glasses or body — are most effective. He also said the department wants to know how the state Data Practices Act will come into play: how many requests for videos will be received and how much staff time will be needed to process those, including redacting video to deal with privacy concerns and other reasons.

The city and police department have still not completed the standard operating procedures for cameras, though Hodges spokesperson Kate Brickman said they will be ready before field testing begins. Hodges made police cameras an issue in her election campaign last year, and during her budget address on August 14, she reiterated her commitment to the idea, saying that the cameras are a tool in building better relations between the police department and residents.

“Body cams have been shown to decrease both use of force and complaints about excessive force,” Hodges said. “Body cams protect officers from frivolous claims and provide more transparency for residents in their interactions with police officers. All that helps make our city safer overall.”

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/16/2014 - 12:00 pm.

    Here is an expenditure well worth the money.

    Let us hope it will in fact reduce the use of force, excessive use of same, and frivolous claims. If so, it will improve relations between the police and the people far more than any PR might effect.

    Let us hope also the police don’t hide these videos when they are incriminating to the department or its individuals. I’d feel better if an independent third party were involved in the chain of custody of this digital material – preserving it from loss or modification.

  2. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/16/2014 - 12:01 pm.

    Good news

    How soon can we get them for our out-of-control St. Paul cops?

  3. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 09/16/2014 - 03:58 pm.

    “Say cheese please”…

    Picture it:
    Civil liberty advocates could start with a small regulation to preserve the life of mice and men; cop or citizen too?

    Cop-on-the-beat should say “cheese’ loud and clear so alleged citizen being so filmed knows the click or flash of the camera is not the click of a gun?

    Unless of course those high tech cameras are more subtle in their approach affecting citizen privacy?

    Yes, this could be very complicated. I could think of a dozen quirky scenarios from the rights of a vain, alleged citizen/ robber whomever, saying “hold it” while straitening his cap or hood; a real charmer smiling for the camera?

    Or could be a photo op for the cop telling the citizen with camera too, ” wait a moment. until the light is just right?”

    Just start with the premise ‘we are a vain society’ and go from there…

  4. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 09/18/2014 - 10:15 am.

    Fifteen minutes of fame and the cop on the beat…

    In spite of the fact that this issue is already archived, there is a more serious side beyond the future possibility of street gangs with bad public records swelling the local university classes in independent film making…candid camera and reality shows go hand in hand.

    Seriously, the use of the human face in all its lack of constitutional promised privacy in a public arena or otherwise… to be used or abused by the ‘camera’ – plus the probable, escalating use of drones- takes the issue into the courtroom and beyond the belly of the cop… so photographing Joe or Joanna citizen who is allegedly in a position to make a cop feel threatened or merely intimidated?

    It happens more often if your skin is darker shade of white?

    Let good legal minds debate this question on a more in-depth level? Otherwise, the practice of filming to protect the cop or validate the citizen seems pretty meaningless for the greater issue, that legal minds need to question before fifteen minutes of fame on the street gets pretty scary whomever holds the camera?

    Explore this issue more please? Thanks.

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