Body cams are a worthy purchase

by Daily Editorial Board

The Minneapolis City Council’s Public Safety Committee recently approved a $4 million contract that will provide all city police officers with body cameras by the end of the year.
Support for body camera initiatives has grown both nationally and locally, but some leaders met the committee’s plan with trepidation. Both police accountability activists and some City Council members expressed doubts that Minneapolis is prepared to roll out body cameras, citing a lack of staff to review the film and the council’s failure to develop specific plans for how to use the devices. For example, there is still a lack of certainty regarding whether footage will be public or private.
These are valid concerns that Minneapolis must address, but we support the city’s efforts to outfit police officers with cameras as soon as possible. Abuse of power by police officers is an alarming trend in our country, and video evidence could help hold officers accountable in instances where accounts of brutality radically differ. 
For example, in November, a Minneapolis police officer fatally shot a man named Jamar Clark, sparking a weekslong protest. If the city waits to install police body cameras, it risks the allowing other instances like this one to occur.
We urge local government officials to seek input from the city’s Police Conduct Oversight Commission as well as from local advocacy groups to develop body camera policies that promote transparency. The $4 million contract represents an opportunity for Minneapolis to improve community-police relations — we should be careful not to squander that.