Minneapolis is seeking federal help to pay for the hundreds of body cameras it plans to purchase for police officers, potentially delaying the planned rollout of the devices across the department.
The city has already set aside more than $1 million for the body camera program, but now hopes it can defray much of that cost with a grant of up to $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice. If the city gets the grant, it will be required to provide matching funds.
Officials are still drafting policies for the new cameras, but they’ve said they hope to have all officers outfitted with the wearable cameras by late this year.
A pilot project involving 36 officers from three precincts recently wrapped up and the Police Department expects to have cost estimates for the full program ready within the month.
The proposal that the city apply for help sparked questions from council members, who worried that the grant process could throw the program’s timeline off track. The city won’t hear back about its application until October or November. Until then, it can’t purchase any cameras.
Wednesday, in a meeting of the council’s public safety committee, Council Member Blong Yang said the potential delay had prompted more “drama” than he’d ever seen around a grant application.
“The Police Department is concerned about the delay, but we really need to look at all resources available and act accordingly,” Robin McPherson, the department’s finance director, told the committee.
The committee voted unanimously to submit the application. The grant application deadline is early next week, before the next meeting of the full council.
Council members said they are confident the grant process won’t create much of a delay because it will likely take time to finalize new department policies for the cameras. “It would be a miracle,” Council President Barb Johnson said, if the cameras were all purchased and ready to go by October.
Council Member Linea Palmisano said the department will be better off taking more time to prepare for the cameras, even if they come later.