Minneapolis police officers are activating their body cams way more after new chief's policy change

The chief put out new body cam guidelines after Justine Damond's death.
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The month leading up to July 14, Minneapolis police officers – all of whom have body cameras – recorded 23,876 videos.

That added up to 2,521 hours of footage over those 30 days.

The night of July 15 Justine Damond was shot and killed by Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor, and neither he nor his partner had turned their body cams on.

So on July 29, the Minneapolis Police Department enacted a new policy – officers must turn their body cameras on whenever they're on their way to a call. (Read more details about the changes here.)

From July 29 to Aug. 27, the number of body cam videos by MPD officers more than doubled. The total length of footage captured eclipsed 9,000 hours.

These figures – showing the huge increase compared to the June 15-July 14 period – were released by the Minneapolis Police Department Monday afternoon.

The late-July policy change was put in place by new Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who on Monday cautioned that these statistics were only a small slice of how the program – still in its infancy – is progressing.

"We still have a ways to go, and so I don't want to celebrate or be victorious at least in terms of this very small snapshot," he said. "But with any new policy change it's going to take time."

A review is coming Tuesday

Arradondo's comments came the day before a Minneapolis City Council committee is set to get an internal review of MPD body cam use at a Tuesday morning meeting

A council member who already reviewed it, Lisa Palmisano, told the Star Tribune it does not look good for the Minneapolis Police Department – though the audit was done before the policy update in late July.

Arradondo was asked about his expectations of the audit. He said he hasn't looked at or reviewed it yet, but said he welcomes any recommendations.

"We want to make sure that we're using this equipment in the best manner that we possibly can," he said, adding he absolutely looks forward to the report.

There's a lot to monitor going forward

Arradondo told reporters there are plenty of things the department still has to monitor going forward: possible battery issues from more camera use, battery effectiveness in the cold, personnel needs to handle video data requests, storage space, upload practices, and more.

"There's still a lot more work to be done and we are still learning," Arradondo stated.

When asked why officers might not have been turning them on before, Arradondo pointed to unfamiliarity with the camera technology (and anecdotally, he said younger officers are likely a bit more attuned to the tech), or the department's policies. 

He said he expects their use to become a natural part of officers' day-to-day routine as time goes on.

Arradondo in July said auto-activation technology is also in the pipeline.

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