Minneapolis' plan to outfit police officers with body-worn video cameras appeared to move a step closer to fruition this week.
After months of testing and several delays, the city's IT department has recommended that Taser International be awarded a five-year $4 million contract to outfit hundreds of officers with the pocket-size recording devices.
Under the pact, which still needs approval from the Ways and Means Committee and the full council, the nation's biggest stun gun maker will supply the department with 587 cameras, docking stations, storage, “additional data access for investigations, replacement program for 300 conducted electrical weapons, and other support equipment such as clips and brackets,” IT officials said.
Advocates see the technology as an important source of physical evidence that will bring clarity to controversial officer-civilian encounters, helping guard against officer misconduct and clearing cops who are falsely accused of wrongdoing. Opponents say the cameras could be an invasion of privacy.
A full department rollout is expected later this year.
The IT report said:
"After conducting significant internal and external research into customer needs and the body cameras and digital video storage solution, Information Technology (IT) and the MPD are requesting a contract with Taser International."
The city has set aside about $1.1 million for the technology, and has applied for a $600,000 federal grant to help defray costs.
The department is still fine-tuning its policy for the cameras.
Last fall, the Police Conduct Oversight Commission endorsed a sweeping series of guidelines on the cameras’ use by officers, which were forwarded to Chief Janeé Harteau, who said her department would take the report’s findings under consideration.
Among the report’s key recommendations were: requiring patrol officers to activate their cameras during all service calls, law enforcement activities and any noncriminal encounters with a citizen, as long as they receive consent; and barring officers from editing or viewing body camera footage before writing their incident reports under most circumstances.