Prepare for body cameras

Though there are questions left to answer, Minneapolis should have body cameras on police.

Three Minneapolis City Council members found funds to test police body cameras last month, but a pilot program needs input from police leadership before moving forward.

Council members Betsy Hodges, Cam Gordon and Gary Schiff said Minneapolis could equip 25 officers with cameras for $25,000.

Having body cameras on police is far from simply equipping law enforcement. Law personnel should experiment with cameras and prepare relevant policy.

However, given Minneapolis’ problems with alleged police misconduct lawsuits and perception of crime, we hope body cameras can be implemented soon.

William Farrar, police chief in Rialto, Calif., and researchers from the University of Cambridge and Hebrew University released a yearlong study this summer on Rialto police’s use of body cameras.

They saw a nearly 60 percent drop in instances of police use of force and an 88 percent decline in complaints from citizens overall.

The city of Minneapolis has paid out more than $9 million since 2009 in officer-related lawsuits and settlements. It’s clear that having cameras on Minneapolis’ 569 city patrol officers could pay for itself over time.

In 2010, the Burnsville Police Department became the first in the state to use body cameras. Though equipped officers were then dubbed “Robo Cops,” the movement is gaining traction in New York City and New Orleans. Duluth is also in the process of adding body cameras to police uniforms.

Law enforcement personnel must answer questions before implementing body cameras. What will be OK to videotape? Will there be limitations on public access to police videotape? What policies will be put in place to monitor police videotape for misconduct?