Minneapolis police officers should be required to turn on their body cameras during all law enforcement activities, calls for service and “consensual” encounters with the public, says a report by the Police Conduct Oversight Commission.
The new report, a final version of which will be voted on by the commission Tuesday, was the product of months of work to examine policies and practices of police departments in Seattle, New Orleans and Duluth, as well as through public input.
Among its key recommendations:
• Require patrol officers to activate cameras during every service call, law enforcement activity and any noncriminal encounter with a citizen, as long as they get consent.
• Bar officers from editing or viewing body camera footage before writing their incident reports, since “such viewing will preserve the evidentiary value of reports, provide multiple perspectives on an incident, and reduce potential falsification of reports.”
• Video footage should be retained for at least 280 days, the window of time for filing a civilian complaint against an officer. Use-of-force incidents should be stored at least three years and any footage containing images of a death, either police or civilian, should be kept indefinitely.
A police department spokesman Thursday declined to comment until “the PCOC has the opportunity to formally present their report.”
The killings last year of several young black men across the country by white police officers and subsequent riots intensified the campaign to make body cameras mandatory.
“The PCOC recommends, due especially to distrust expressed in community comments, that it be made clear in the policy that one of the purposes of body cameras is to promote accountability and increase community trust in the MPD,” said the 46-page report, which was released this week. “In addition, the PCOC recommends that consequences be clearly defined for failure to follow the policy, and for any misconduct captured on the footage of which a supervisor becomes aware.”
City officials say one difficult issue with the cameras is that redacting the videos is a time-consuming process that would be handled by the Records Information Unit, which already processes about 10,000 data requests a month.
The MPD recently concluded its monthslong pilot program using 36 officers from three precincts. Minneapolis officials are expected to pick a vendor this fall, and a full department rollout is expected in early 2016. The city has set aside about $1.1 million for the body camera program, and has applied for a $600,000 federal grant to help defray costs.
Minneapolis police Lt. Bob Kroll said he fully supports using cameras to record police-public interactions. Doing so would help clear officers of wrongdoing in cases that pit their word against that of a civilian, said Kroll, the police union’s president. “And you’re going to get a firsthand look at the garbage that they deal with in the process,” he said.
Some domestic violence and mental health advocates say the technology raises some serious ethical concerns.
Liz Richards, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, worried about the cameras’ “potential chilling impact” on domestic violence victims, who may be reluctant to call the police for fear of surrendering their privacy.
The full report can be viewed at www.minneapolismn.gov/www/groups/public/@civilrights/documents/webcontent/wcms1p-148199.pdf.