Minneapolis Police body cam program: An uneven work in progress

Minneapolis police haven't been recording all use-of-force incidents.

Minneapolis police haven't been recording all use-of-force incidents.

Minneapolis conducted an audit of its fledgling police body camera program and found that while the equipment is sound, officers are still struggling to use it properly.

City auditor Will Tetsell presented his review Tuesday morning in the Audit Committee. Councilwoman Linea Palmisano's ward is where Justine Damond was shot on July 15 by Officer Mohamed Noor, whose body camera was turned off at the time.

After Damond's death, new Chief Medaria Arradondo changed MPD's policy to require officers to activate their body cameras going into any interaction with a civilian. The audit looked at both the old and new policies.

When matched against state statutes, Minneapolis officers passed 56 testable requirements and failed 16, Tetsell said.

Those failures include not checking if cameras are working before leaving the precinct, and simply missing some 7 percent of use-of-force video and 29 percent of general video. Cameras were also being deactivated prior to the conclusion of the event, frequently in the course of delivering arrestees to jail.

Some officers had also gotten in the habit of turning on their cameras to record, instead of keeping their cameras on the entire time in order to capture a 30-second buffer prior to signficant events taking place.

Many videos weren't being categorized properly, Tetsell said, either intentionally or accidentally being miscategorized as "training," which means they'll be deleted in 90 days. There was also a good amount of uncategorized video, which is unhelpful for retrieving information from them. He said about 31 percent of uncategorized video were use-of-force.

Finally, the audit found a troubling lack of oversight. There seemed to be confusion within the police department and the city over who was supposed to ensure the program stuck to its original goals of enhacing accountability and public trust, Tetsell said. Supervisors are supposed to regularly review their officers' recordings to make sure they're using their cameras properly. There was no evidence of supervisors doing that.

"To us it didn't appear like the spirit of this program lived after its rollout to the precinct."

The audit did find that officer training was fairly comprehensive, and that over time cops were recording more video overall. The cameras themselves are virtually tamper-proof, with nonremovable data storage and forensic editing history.

Assistant chief Mike Kjos said the department had yet to study the audit, but was looking to improve compliance.