New rule: Minneapolis Police body cams must be on when meeting civilians

A new policy announced Wednesday mandates Minneapolis cops turn on body cams before going to meet civilians.

A new policy announced Wednesday mandates Minneapolis cops turn on body cams before going to meet civilians. Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

Frustrated by the total lack of police footage in the July 15 shooting of Justine Damond, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and interim police chief Medaria Arradondo announced a new body camera policy on Wednesday.

The new rules are concise and direct: Minneapolis officers must switch their body cameras on when going to meet civilians. The cameras are required to record when cops are dispatched to any call or start any self-initiated investigation.

Formerly, activation was required—and only at a moment the officer determined was safe to do so— in traffic stops, suspicious person or vehicle stops, vehicle pursuits, searches, any contact involving criminal activity, or when confrontations with the public became adversarial.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Hodges expressed her frustration, saying there's no point in equipping all the city's officers with body cameras if they fail to capture a police shooting.

"It has been a tough 10 days for the city, especially for Justine Damond's family," she said. "One of the toughest things that all of us in Minneapolis have had to face is after all the time, and money, and energy of making sure body cameras are in place, we did not have body camera footage."

Arradondo, who took over for the ousted Janee Harteau last week, agreed the previous policy had let the city down by missing the moment of Damond's shooting.

"What good is a camera if it's not being used when they may be needed the most?" Arradondo said.

Yet Arradondo declined to say if officer Mohamed Noor had violated department policy by not recording interaction with Damond. Arradondo also declined to comment on what discipline Noor could face if it's determined that his camera should have been on.

Currently, consequences for failure to properly use a body camera can range from a 10-hour suspension to termination.

This month, police supervisors were trained to audit their officers' body cameras to see if officers have been following the department's 8-month-old policy on this new technology.

"There are some officers who are, quite frankly, not using them nearly enough," Arradondo said.
"We need to build and regain our community's trust ... We equip them with a lot of equipment to go out there and serve our communities, but the one thing we cannot equip them with is the benefit of the doubt. They have to build that."