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Hundreds of Minnesota officers, agents getting body cameras

Jupiter Town Council meeting to address police body cameras
Posted at 1:25 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 13:25:52-05

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Hundreds of state law enforcement officers in Minnesota will soon be outfitted with new body cameras to record everything from traffic stops to civil disturbances.

More than 600 Minnesota State Patrol troopers, nearly 200 Department of Natural Resources conservation officers, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents and other state-level law enforcement officers will soon wear the 1,100 body cameras that have been ordered.

The State Patrol will begin distributing the cameras to troopers starting next month, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

The Legislature previously approved more than $8 million to buy the cameras and provide for data storage. House Public Safety Committee Chairman Carlos Mariani, a St. Paul Democrat, helped push the legislation to passage.

"What's quote-unquote good about body cameras is that it will then provide information about bad things that cops do," Mariani said. "From police perspectives, the good thing about body cameras is that it'll provide information about the good things that cops do."

In delivering the money, Mariani insisted it come with greater expectations for footage to be made available quickly.

"The state would provide the role modeling for what we believe, on the House side, are good, fair, best practices that reinforce the public's trust in law enforcement," he said.

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has directed that the video from the state officers' cameras be subject to a more formalized release process than has covered local police departments.

Under the State Patrol's written policy, there will be routine independent audits of trooper footage. And if there is use of force that results in a death, that person's family is assured access to the video within five days. That's different from most Minnesota police departments, where such release is discretionary.

The officers' cameras must roll during stops, pursuits and enforcement actions. They'll automatically turn on when an officer unholsters a gun or Taser.

Sgt. Mike LeDoux, president of the Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association, said union members are on board with using body cameras.

"The vast majority of troopers understand the necessity to have this particular piece of equipment," he said.

LeDoux said the staged rollout should allow the patrol to work out any bugs. But he warned there will always be limitations, technological and otherwise.

"Since video cameras have become widespread in the law enforcement profession, we have some folks that maybe armchair quarterback based on a video," LeDoux said. "And I think it's important to remember, every incident has a beginning, a middle and an end. And you can't selectively only look at 30 seconds of footage."