Body cams will be worn by all MPD officers

MPD implements body cams to officers in all five precincts.

Kristina Busch

Amid nationwide discussions about police conduct, the city of Minneapolis has adopted body cams.

Earlier this month, the Minneapolis Police Department announced officers in all five precincts will wear body cameras while on duty.

About 600 patrol and SWAT officers will be equipped with body cameras. Each camera costs about $400, with data storage costing up to $100 a month.

At a press conference earlier this month, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said the city adopted the use of cameras in response to the community’s push for transparency.

“Residents and community leaders have repeatedly asked for body cameras in order to preserve video evidence of interactions between residents and … police officers,” Hodges said at the event.

She said cameras can help improve relations between communities of color and law enforcement.

MPD Chief Janeé Harteau said at the event that, since their implementation, there have been 55,000 videos recorded and retained.

Officers in the first precinct first began wearing body cams in July following a three-year study and a six-month pilot program, where 36 officers wore the cameras.

“When these cameras rolled out it was a bit of a new experience for me,” said MPD officer Justin Churchill at the event. “I was a little bit reluctant.”

But he said the cameras are easy to use and are especially helpful during high-stress calls where officers may need to review an important detail for their report.

But some think that body cams — and specifically MPD’s policy — are ineffective ways to quell police brutality.

Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said the policy and Minnesota legislation limits the public’s access to footage.

Only the individual that was recorded by the body cam can access the footage, and surveillance can only be made public if recordings include substantial bodily harm — the use of a weapon are past the investigation period.

“The devil’s in the details,” Gross said.

A March 2016 CUAPB analysis noted concerns about the officers following proper protocol to ensure the cameras were working correctly, and the officers’ ability to activate them at their own discretion.

“What people don’t realize is that body cams don’t actually have a way to see that they’re on,” Gross said.

The policy also does not require the officer to ask for the consent of the person being recorded, she said.

“The right to privacy is most acute in your home, and we think that’s pretty important,” Gross said.

The analysis also condemned the officers’ ability to review recorded surveillance before writing a report.

Advocates said the recording should be a separate piece of evidence and that an officer’s prior viewing of the recording could hinder the accuracy of the police report.

“Body cameras do not show you the cop’s actions, they show you the reactions to the cop’s actions.” she said.

Gross said this would help deter police from falsifying their report to coincide with a lie.

To prevent any backlash and to ease tensions, the MPD released a document highlighting community concerns.

In response to the officers’ ability to view footage before writing a report, the MPD says it is important for reports to be as accurate as possible. In situations that involve an officer’s use of deadly force, an investigation agency will determine whether the officer will be allowed to view said footage.

Violations of the body cam policy will result in disciplinary action.

But Gross still says that this is not enough and encouraged individuals to create their own recordings of police misconduct.

“As long as you have footage that’s secret, then what’s the point?” she said. “If you’re not going to use it to hold police accountable then what the hell is the point?”