Minneapolis set to introduce police body cam pilot program this fall

A body-cam wearing police officer.
A body-cam wearing police officer.

Minneapolis officials are on the cusp of rolling out the city's first police body camera program.

Kate Brickman, spokesperson for Mayor Betsy Hodges, tells us she expects the Minneapolis City Council to approve a pilot program this fall that will put cameras on roughly three dozen officers. If things go smoothly, full implementation will follow next year.

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Hodges's 2015 budget proposal, announced last month, included $1.4 million for police body cams. That budget has yet to be approved, but the body cam portion of it has the support of one key City Council member, Blong Yang, chair of council's public safety committee.

The council allotted $400,000 for the pilot program in this year's budget.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau and Hodges beefed over body cams during last year's mayoral campaign, but that was more over the timing of rolling out a body cam system than it was the idea itself, and Harteau has reportedly been working on a draft body cam policy this year.

Asked for specifics on how the pilot program will work, Brickman says some of the details remain to be determined, but it will last "at least six months."

"During this time, MPD will be able to gain a better understanding of the employee time and training needed to support the body camera system," she adds in an email. "It will also allow us to see how the body cameras operate during a range of environments, most importantly during the winter, as Minneapolis is one of the northernmost cities to use body cameras. For example: Do the cameras fog up when officers move from a heated car to the outside? How will officers wear the cameras with winter gear and various uniform styles? How do cameras operate during extended durations in extreme cold?"

Brickman doesn't have information about which parts of the city body-cam wearing officers will be working during the trial period, but in July, KSTP, citing MPD sources, reported that the pilot will focus on downtown, the north side, and southwest Minneapolis.

In January, MinnPost reported that the only long-term study of police body cam effectiveness, conducted in Rialto, California from February 2012 to July 2013, showed that police complaints declined by 88 percent during that time, which coincided with the city rolling out a body cam program. Officers used force 60 percent less often than they did before they wore cameras.

Brickman tells us the next step is for the council to choose a vendor to supply the cameras, which should happen later this month.

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.

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