3 Minnesota police departments get federal funding for body camera programs

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Three Minnesota police departments were awarded grants from the federal government to help fund their body camera programs.

Minneapolis and St. Paul were awarded $600,000 each, while the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe received $41,967 a news release says.

The grants are part of the government's body-worn camera pilot program, which President Barack Obama announced in May in an effort to build trust and transparency between law enforcement and the communities, a news release says. The Justice Department awarded grants to 73 local and tribal agencies in 32 states, totaling $23.2 million.

More than 200 agencies were passed over for the grant, the release notes.

Goals for the programs

The grants, which required a 50-50 in-kind or cash match, will be used to purchase body-worn cameras, training officers on their use, and examining their impact, the release says. Each agency awarded a grant is required to develop a plan for long-term storage, including the cost of storing data from the cameras.

The implementation of a body camera program comes at a time when police departments are being criticized for their use of excessive force – and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a news release Monday the program will "enhance transparency and accountability," noting in other cities it has decreased both the use of force and complaints of excessive force.

Minneapolis plans to outfit all patrol officers with body cameras by early 2016, the release says, while St. Paul intends to start testing cameras next year and have them fully in use by 2017, the Pioneer Press notes.

Questions about body cameras

Questions still remain with body camera programs in many cities, including when the cameras should be turned on and who should be able to view the footage.

Sixteen Minnesota cities recently asked the state for a temporary declaration that makes data from the body cameras private in most instances, restricting who can view the footage, The Associated Press reported. A decision must be made in the next three months.

Burnsville, which is among the cities asking to restrict who can view recorded footage, was the first in the state to begin using body cameras. Since then, several other police departments have started using them or have looked into it.

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