The department is believed to be the first in the Twin Cities to issue body cameras to all of its officers.
Officer Shaun Anselment wore a body camera on his chest as he pulled someone over on a traffic stop on patrol last October in Burnsville. This is the third year the Burnsville Police Department has used body cameras.
Spring Lake Park Police will be replacing dashboard-mounted cameras in squad cars with officer-worn cameras.
The small north metro department is believed to be the first in the Twin Cities to issue body cameras to all of its officers — 11 — who will record interactions with the public.
Spring Lake Park joins Burnsville as early adopters. The Burnsville department has issued body cameras to about half of its 75 officers.
Nearby Columbia Heights is also testing out body cameras and plans to issue one to each of its 27 officers starting in 2015.
While smaller suburban police forces are warming to their use, larger departments including Minneapolis have resisted public calls to use body-mounted cameras, with department brass saying the devices need more study. St. Paul Police also do not use officer-worn cameras.
Spring Lake Police Chief Doug Ebeltoft told his City Council that outfitting his department with body cameras would be affordable and would protect the city and individual officers from liability.
Body cameras will record more than a dashboard camera and will take the “we-said, they-said” out of disputes.
“Due to phenomenal advances in technology, officer-worn video systems are now cost-effective and small enough and durable enough to withstand the rigors of police work,” Ebeltoft told the council, which approved the purchase of body cameras in June with little discussion.
Purchasing the cameras will cost $12,000, about one-third the $36,000 the city had budgeted to replace the dashboard cameras.
Ebeltoft said he has ordered the cameras and will deploy them as soon as possible.
“The officers are very receptive to the camera systems,” he said. “We have had camera systems in our patrol vehicles for years and the officers realize the benefits of having them.”
Video will be saved until a case has concluded and then for about 90 days afterward in case of appeals, he said.
Columbia Heights Police Chief Scott Nadeau said the cost to the department will be around $30,000 for three years, including software, storage and technical support. Columbia Heights, too, will get rid of the dash camera.
Burnsville police started using body cameras in 2010. Officers now wear them mounted to the front of their uniforms. The camera looks like a pager and gives a much fuller, more accurate account of an officer’s encounter with a person than a dash cam, law enforcement officials say.
“Ninety-four percent of what happens in a police officer’s day is not directly in front of the squad car,” said Burnsville Police Chief Eric Gieseke.
Gieseke said the cameras have been successful in his city. Department officials, the city attorney and county attorney all can pull up footage on a secured server almost instantly.
“They’ve been very effective in helping prepare cases for court,” Gieseke said.