Minneapolis Police unveiled a final body camera policy Wednesday, one week before nearly 600 officers are due to be outfitted with the devices in hopes of improving department accountability and public trust.
The guidelines address when officers would record police-citizen interactions and how that data would be stored. Under the new plan, sworn officers would be required to turn on the devices during all traffic and suspicious-person stops, car chases and searches, in addition to any use of force.
For months, legislators were enmeshed in a roiling national debate as states tried to sort out how best to use the new technology while also ensuring residents’ privacy when they have a run-in with police.
Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill last month that would restrict most bodycam video from public review. Video showing a discharge of a firearm or use of force that results in substantial bodily harm would still be released after an investigation is closed. Any other requests for footage filed under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act would be subject to consideration.
The Minneapolis City Council in February unanimously approved a $4 million contract with Taser International for 587 of the devices, which will be issued next week, starting with officers in the First Precinct downtown. The city plans to spend $6.4 million over the next five years to cover the cost of the cameras, accompanying software, and additional staff members to help review footage and respond to public-records requests.
Audio and video collected by MPD during “significant incidents,” including those that result in death or great bodily harm, felony crimes, squad accidents and domestic abuse interviews will be saved for at least seven years. General recordings and petty misdemeanors will be saved for just one year.
MPD’s mandate that officers be allowed to review video before writing reports to ensure accuracy was questioned by critics who want to preserve officers’ first impressions of an event without the influence of a video.
Bodycam plans took on added urgency after Jamar Clark’s death in November following a shooting involving two city cops, who were not wearing bodycams. The shooting ignited weeks of protests and demands to release any footage of the incident.
But the rollout has been delayed numerous times since May, and is now projected for immediately after July 4th.
“It’s frustrating that the timeline has been pushed back as far as it has,” said City Council Member Blong Yang, who is also chairman of the public safety committee.
Staff writer Libor Jany contributed to this report.
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648