Committee suggests rules, policies for body camera use by Minneapolis police

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With the city of Minneapolis likely to approve the use of body cameras for its police force, the logistical questions – when should they be turned on, who should be able to view the footage, and others – will need answers.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Police Conduct Oversight Commission unanimously voted in support of a report it put together, detailing what it deems are best practices when it comes to the recording, handling and viewing of body cameras, the Star Tribune reports.

You can see the full report and recommendations here.

“I believe public input is an important part of the process as we work toward developing a body camera policy," Police Chief Janeé Harteau said in a statement posted on Facebook. "We will take the research and study into account while continuing to analyze dozens of other policies and national ‘best practice’ standards. Our goal is to put together a policy that works best for Minneapolis.”

The vote itself isn't binding – the department could ultimately craft a policy that's completely in line with the recommendations, or significantly different.

Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the police union, told KARE 11 the policy that was recommended is a no-go, saying criminals "are going to love this policy."

Late last year, 36 officers across three precincts began testing body cameras as part of a pilot program. That wrapped up earlier this year.

The city has budgeted about $1.1 million to equip officers with body cameras, MPR News reported – and the full roll out is expected to happen in early 2016, after a vendor is selected this fall, according to the Star Tribune.

What did the committee recommend?

To come up with its suggestions, the city looked at what procedures other police departments are using, and gathered input from the public via three community meetings, the report says.

A brief rundown:

  • A camera should be turned on for all community contacts, calls for service, and law enforcement activities.
  • It should only be turned off once an officer leaves the scene, or is done transporting a civilian. (There's a clause in there for a meeting in which a citizen doesn't give permission to be filmed.)
  • Officers shouldn't be allowed to watch footage until after writing their report, to avoid falsifications. And any officer being investigated for use of force shouldn't watch footage until the inquiry is complete.
  • Whether the public should have access to the footage, the committee made no recommendation – it's up to Minnesota law, it noted.
  • Consequences for an officer failing to follow the guidelines should be "clearly defined," and the penalties enforced.

Police body camera background

The discussion in Minneapolis comes after months of intense focus on policing practices and officer accountability, sparked by high-profile incidents around the country.

One aspect of that has been police relations with minorities. A poll released Wednesday by the National Bar Association (an organization of black judges and lawyers) asks whether blacks are treated differently by police, USA Today reports. About 88 percent of black respondents said yes, while 59 percent of white respondents said yes.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance, on its body-worn camera toolkit page, says researchers have found correlations between the presence of body cameras on officers and the number of use-of-force incidents.

The devices are in use in several Minnesota cities, including Duluth, Rochester and Burnsville, while Hastings approved its own pilot program a few months ago.

KSTP reports the ACLU of Minnesota is currently questioning the number of arrests by Minneapolis police which are logged in the system as "MISC" – meaning it "does not fit any crime." But the department, the station says, told the ACLU it's because the software doesn't allow for some crimes to be specifically coded.

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