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As Minneapolis police put on body cameras, here are 5 key questions answered

Minneapolis cops are wearing body cameras. Not just in a pilot program, but for keeps.
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Minneapolis' mayor said in her campaign she'd make it happen. Since the police chief was sworn in nearly six years ago, she's been working on how it would happen. Now it's finally happening.

Minneapolis cops are wearing body cameras. Not just in a pilot program, but for keeps.

The first ones hit the streets on July 11 and the plan is that all officers will be wearing them by October.

1) Why are body cams catching on with police departments?

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges says the cameras are a tool to improve trust between officers and the communities they serve. Hodges says in the cities where they're being used both use of force and complaints against officers have declined.

Police Chief Janeé Harteau says in the short time the department has been using them she can already see the process of charging criminals is moving faster because evidence is readily available.

2) What gets recorded?

In Minneapolis officers are instructed to use the cameras to record every traffic stop. They're also required to use them whenever they're making an arrest or pulling over a suspicious vehicle, are in a chase, or responding to a crime, Deputy Chief Travis Glampe said Tuesday.

When there's not as much going on, it's up to the officer to decide whether to keep the camera rolling or turn it off. When the camera is turned on, it actually captures the previous 30 seconds of video. So if it's turned on just after a car crash, for example, the footage will be there.

You can find the department's full body camera policy in this document (scroll down to 4-223).

3) How does it work?

It really is as simple as pushing a button. In the video below, Officer Ken Feucht demonstrates that while the body cam is in use, the footage can be monitored on a cell phone.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjEI_gEG8hc&feature=youtu.be

4) What happens to the footage?

Minneapolis Deputy Chief Medaria Arradondo told BringMeTheNews all of the recordings are saved for at least 90 days and they could be kept indefinitely, depending upon what's on the tape.

If it's just an officer learning to use the camera, the recording will be discarded after 90 days. Petty misdemeanors are kept
for a year. If the tape shows an arrest or an officer using force, the recording is saved for at least seven years.

5) Who can see it?

Under a state law passed last year, footage from a body camera becomes public only when an officer uses force resulting in significant bodily harm.

Otherwise, only people who are pictured in a video are allowed to see it.

Arradondo says one of the more labor intensive parts of the new body cam policy will be finding the video footage requested by citizens and blurring out the faces of other citizens pictured in it before it is released. Once a person featured in a video gets a copy from the police, they are free to distribute it however they'd like. That's why the faces of other people will be obscured.

A footnote

Being the camera hogs that we are, a pair of BringMeTheNews producers asked one of the police department employees demonstrating the body cams if they would tape us so we could post the video to our site.

Lt. Greg Reinhardt was agreeable. One hitch, though. The body camera he was using ... didn't work.

It seems there might still be a few kinks to work out, but after six years of waiting and planning body cameras have finally arrived in Minnesota's biggest city.

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