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Rochester inks deal to buy police body cameras

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Police in Rochester will likely be wearing body cameras by the end of the year after the city council inked a deal to purchase 100 body cameras for the city's officers.

“We’re seeing what’s happening in other communities and we really don’t want that to happen in Rochester, Minnesota,” City Council President Randy Staver told ABC 6.

The city council voted 5-2 Monday to approve a contract with TASER International for nearly $87,000 to purchase the body cameras, equipment, and two years of video storage and management service, the city's website says.

Rochester, like many cities around the state, has been looking into police body cameras for months, but the city council decided in March to table making any decisions on them until June, after state lawmakers had discussed camera regulations during this year's legislative session, KTTC reported.

But state lawmakers left the issue unresolved – and the Rochester City Council decided to move forward with the contract anyway because the police department had been drafting its own policy for regulating the use of the cameras, which it based on the U.S. Department of Justice, International Association of Chiefs of Police and policies from other police departments, the Rochester Post Bulletin reported.

The policy hasn't been finalized yet, but the Rochester Post Bulletin notes it was solid enough for city officials to agree to purchase the cameras.

"Sometimes, if you know it can solve an important safety concern, it can be worth it to lead the way," Council Member Nick Campion told the Rochester Post Bulletin.

The newly formed Rochester Police Policy Oversight Commission, which is set to meet June 29, is expected to finalize the policy, which will then need to be approved before officers can start using the cameras, KROC says.

Protecting people's privacy is one of the main concerns with the body cameras – this is expected to be detailed in the department's policy.

“In terms of respecting people's privacy that’s the line that we are trying to follow is that if you have an expectation of privacy we respect that. Part of that is, letting you know when the camera is running and getting your permission when we do expect privacy,” Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson told ABC 6.

Peterson told ABC 6 that officers will need six to eight weeks of training before using the cameras.

Minneapolis body camera rollout may be delayed

Minneapolis is among the other Minnesota cities looking to implement the use of police body cameras, but the rollout of the devices may be delayed, the Star Tribune reported last week.

The city, which has set aside more than $1 million for the program, is hoping to get federal funding of up to $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice to help pay for the cameras, MinnPost said.

This could delay the program, which was expected to debut this October, by five months. That's because the city can't buy the cameras before a decision is made on the federal grant request, which is expected to come this fall.

The cost of body camera programs has kept many departments across the country from implementing them, The Pew Charitable Trusts notes.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which believes with the right policies, body cameras are a "win for all," says about 25 percent of the nation's 17,000 police agencies are using body cameras, while 80 percent of all agencies are evaluating the technology.

Several Minnesota police departments already use body cameras. The Burnsville Police Department became the first in the state to implement a police body camera program a few years ago. Duluth outfitted its officers with cameras last year.

Moorhead is looking at introducing a body camera program, but is waiting on regulations from state lawmakers before moving forward, WDAY reported.

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