Body cameras for Minnepolis police: Residents weigh in

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Minneapolis residents had a chance Saturday to share their thoughts about body cameras worn by city police officers.

The city's police department recently finished a six-month pilot program, where 36 officers from three precincts wore body cameras. Now the department plans to outfit all 600 of its officers with the cameras, and is seeking input from residents on how they should be used, according to KSTP.

Minneapolis is moving forward with police body cameras as part of an effort to reduce complaints of misconduct and police brutality. The cameras – which capture the perspective of the officer – could also save the city money in unnecessary litigation fees from false allegations of police wrongdoing.

At Saturday's public hearing, about 20 city residents came and spoke mostly in favor of having police use the equipment, MPR News reports.

But other questions remain, such as whether police should keep the cameras running at all times, whether a citizen should be able to ask that the camera be turned off and whether there should be consequences if an officer fails to activate a camera.

C.J. Czaia, a criminal defense attorney, said he believes body cameras should be kept on at all times.

"If [a police officer is] against it that means you're probably doing something wrong, because if you're doing it right you want that backup," he said, according to MPR News.

Others said spending money on body cameras is a "distraction" that's taking away attention from the real issue of police misconduct, MPR News notes.

Another major question surrounding body cameras is who can have access to the video. Privacy advocates are concerned that video that's available to the public could cause embarrassment to people who are recorded interacting with police. But others say keeping the video private would contradict the purpose of using the body cameras in the first place.

Video storage - an expensive proposition

Storage of all the video could be pricey for police departments.

For example, Duluth's 110 police officers wear body cameras and generate up to 10,000 videos per month. All of the video segments are stored for at least 30 days, and the cost of that data storage is "enormous," Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsey told the Associated Press.

Ramsey said Duluth bought 84 cameras from Taser International for less than $5,000, but a three-year contract for data storage costs about $78,000.

In an analysis of body camera contracts from cities around the country, the Associated Press determined that managing the data will cost some departments millions, forcing some to choose whether to pay for officers or for video storage.

Minneapolis has set aside more than $1 million for the body camera program, but is hoping to cover some of that cost with a federal grant of up to $600,000, the Star Tribune reports.

Saturday's forum was the first of three that are scheduled. The next two are on July 11 and July 25, KSTP notes. The police department hopes to have the body cameras running by early 2016.

Rochester recently approved a contract to buy body cameras for its police department, and expects the program to be implemented before the end of the year.

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