A group of 40 Minnesota State Patrol troopers will begin wearing body cameras as soon as next week with the entire force using them by June 2022.
Capitol security officers and commercial vehicle inspectors also will wear the cameras, which "give us an opportunity to have an undeniable record of what occurred roadside to augment what happens with squad video systems," Col. Matt Langer said Thursday at the patrol's West Metro District office in Golden Valley. "It's a big day for the State Patrol."
Troopers will be required to activate their cameras whenever they interact with the public during enforcement events, such as traffic stops and crash investigations. Cameras will automatically turn on if a trooper draws a Taser or service gun, Langer said.
In 2020, troopers had more than 411,300 interactions with the public, including 325,505 traffic stops and more than 30,000 crashinvestigations.
For more than 20 years, State Patrol squad cars have been equipped with dash cameras, but they don't always capture everything, Langer said. Body cameras will help provide more transparency, he said.
"Interactions captured on body-worn cameras will hold everybody accountable," Langer said. The cameras also will "have a record of what actually occurred between the trooper and the member of the public."
The Legislature approved $8 million in funding for the cameras.
Besides body cameras, the money will pay for a new camera and video system in each trooper's squad car. The system will allow squad car and body cameravideo to be synched "so we don't have two different videos on two different systems," Langer said.
That installation along with the training to use the body cameras takes time, Langer said, explaining why it will take until June to outfit every trooper.
Trooper Ben Madsen is one of the first troopers to get the body cameras.
"It's incredibly easy to use," he said. Madsen welcomes the cameras, saying "the more documentation the better, and this helps document."
Langer said he wished the patrol had cameras during the past year when troopers responded to civil unrest. Within months, troopers will.
"They give a record of who did what, who said what," Langer said. "The public expectation is for peace officers to have body-worn cameras."