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.”