Deputies with the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office will start wearing body cameras later this year, making it the latest Twin Cities law enforcement agency to use the devices.
The agency is launching a pilot program to assign body cameras to about 40 deputies in its emergency services unit, essentially a SWAT team that responds to incidents such as hostage rescues and high-risk arrest warrants.
“The public wants the accountability and transparency, and this is another way to get there,” Sheriff Rich Stanek said Tuesday.
The Sheriff’s Office will take public comments next month on implementation of the new portable recording system policy, which the agency is required to do by state statute.
After that, Stanek said, the Sheriff’s Office will purchase up to 40 body cameras and train officers before rolling out the program, tentatively planned for December.
In the Twin Cities area, a growing number of local police departments have started requiring officers to wear body cameras. Sheriff’s offices in the metro area’s seven counties have been slower to make use of the technology, though sheriff’s deputies tend to patrol less than local police.
None of the sheriff’s offices in Ramsey, Anoka, Scott or Carver counties has body cameras, but officials with all four counties said they’re looking into adopting them.
For the last three years, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Office has had its jail supervisors use body cameras, which “have been effective at reducing frivolous lawsuits and increasing accountability,” Sheriff Tim Leslie said. He added that the agency is studying implementing body cameras next year for its 25 patrol deputies.
In January, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office started using body cameras for all licensed peace officers, including plainclothes investigators and deputies who provide security for the district court in Stillwater. The county spent $48,000 this year on the software and devices and will spend about $62,000 annually on the devices.
Hennepin County commissioners asked Tuesday when body cameras can be assigned to patrol deputies and about costs such as storage expenses.
The Sheriff’s Office’s draft policy said that body cameras could be activated during any tactical or forced entry into a building, any hostage-taking event or other high-risk incidents. Stanek said it’s not clear yet when the technology could be rolled out to other deputies. “This is a trial period,” he said.
Written comments on the new policy will be accepted Aug. 1-16, by mail to 350 S. 5th St., Room 6, Minneapolis, MN 55415, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or in person at 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 15 at the county boardroom in the Hennepin County Government Center.