More police ‘accountability and transparency’ are hoped-for outcomes
By Charles Hallman
Minneapolis City and police officials pledge that the body camera pilot program now in effect will “enhance transparency and accountability.” Mayor Betsy Hodges, both during her election campaign and after taking office, has advocated the body camera use by police.
Since last Friday, 36 Minneapolis police officers from the First, Fourth and Fifth precincts have been wearing body cameras during their on-duty shifts. Police Chief Janeé Harteau told the MSR at the November 7 City Hall press conference, when asked if the cameras will help improve strained relations between her department and the Black community, “I would think it would be an absolute help to be able to capture the officers’ interactions with the public.”
Two different camera types will be used in the pilot program. Officials believe that because of Minnesota’s typical unpredictable weather, this is a good time to test them. Minneapolis is one of the northernmost cities to use body cameras.
“Without ever testing them, we really don’t know which of the products” works best for Minneapolis police officers, noted Minneapolis Lt. Gregory Reinhardt, who last week briefly demonstrated them for reporters. “It may be that we use both of them or use only one of them,” he added.
One can be mounted “on your glasses or sunglasses, your collar… [and] you can mount [it] on your helmet,” while the other can be attached on the officer’s shirt or outer jacket, Reinhardt explained.
Each camera can take up to nine hours of videos, said Reinhardt. “Our officers work 10-hour shifts, and the battery will last well beyond that,” added the officer, who admitted that he prefers the chest model: “I find that some of the younger officers like the one that mounts on the glasses,” he said.
MPD Deputy Chief Travis Glampe said officers’ feedback will be important to learn what works and what doesn’t: “We are going to have to have some feedback right away within that
first three-four month period.”
“It’s a simple process for the officers… There is no way for them to hamper or destroy that video,” added Glampe. “At the end of the shift, the officer will walk in [and] put the camera in the docking station and download the video. It will upload, and [the video] will be stored on a server for the retention period selected.” Use of the captured video data will be governed by Minnesota data practices and data retention standards, he said.
Police body cameras are used in many U.S. police departments, including those in Duluth and Burnsville, explained Harteau. However, its usage has received mixed reviews in some circles.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said last week that although she supports using police body cameras, she will veto a current city council bill that requires all police officers to wear them. “The worst thing we can do…is to roll out a program that hasn’t been thought through,” said the mayor in a published online report.
The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) is now looking at a “draft standard” for all police departments who use body cameras. A 2012 CALEA report cited a nearly 88 percent reduction in “citizen complaints about perceived officer misconduct,” and a 60 percent drop in police use of force largely attributed to the use of cameras.
Minneapolis resident Kenneth Foxworth told the MSR, “I think it’s really important to use the body camera. It can’t lie.”
Another city resident, Roiann Rinehart, wants the police body cameras “to film everything” including the officer who’s wearing the camera.
“It has not been a concern with other agencies,” responded Glampe when a reporter asked what would happen if an officer forgets to turn on the camera.
“Hopefully we will capture all that we need to capture, but we also need to be realistic that we may not capture everything, or there may be a difference of opinion on what’s captured. Those are things we will work through,” stated Harteau.
“They are tamper proof. We will be watching when they are turned on and turned off,” proclaimed MPD spokesman John Elder, who said each officer in the pilot program completes a three-day training prior to starting the program. “Our officers are excited about these [cameras].”
Hodges said she hopes to work with community residents and others “to develop policies and procedures to ensure our department-wide implementation is effective” after the pilot program is completed. The full rollout is expected to begin in late 2015. Harteau noted that such public input for police equipment is “unprecedented.”
Elder told the MSR that he’s aware that there are “constant skeptics,” but all city residents, including Black residents who are wary of the police, should welcome the body cameras. “We are talking about the entire community, whether it is diverse or not. This is going to show what officers see. This is going to show what officers are seeing and can help explain what happened.
“This is about transparency. This is about accountability. This chief and this administration are focused on accountability and transparency,” Elder continued. “We’re excited about this.”
Information from various sources was used in this report.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.