St. Paul police revealed a draft policy Thursday that will govern the department’s use of body cameras, which is slated to begin next month.
About 45 cameras will roll out Nov. 9 in the Western District for a 60-day pilot program. Two different camera systems will be tested for 30 days each.
“This policy can change based on what we see and hear,” said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a police spokesman.
Work on the policy began in March 2015, and was crafted after more than 30 meetings with the public and with the help of more than 1,400 surveys submitted to police.
The “Body Worn Camera” (BWC) program will include officers from the patrol, K-9, traffic and SWAT units.
“Compliance with this policy is mandatory, but it is recognized that officers must also attend to other primary duties and the safety of all concerned, sometimes in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving,” said the policy.
A summary of the policy’s key elements includes:
• Officers must test the technology before each shift and abstain from wearing defective cameras.
• Recording is mandatory for traffic stops, vehicle pursuits, arrests, frisks, searches of a suspect or physical spaces, responses to resistance or aggression, in-custody transports and interviews with victims, witnesses or suspects, among other situations.
• Officers are expected to activate cameras as soon as it is safely possible, and no later than upon arriving at a scene.
• Officers are prohibited from recording interactions with other employees when they are not actively investigating a case or on a call, nonwork activity, areas such as call rooms, locker rooms and break rooms, when interacting with undercover officers or informants or inside care areas of hospitals and sexual assault treatment centers, among other situations.
• Recordings can be stopped to conserve power or storage capacity, when deactivation won’t lead to the loss of “important documentary information,” when it is “reasonable and necessary to protect the safety of the officers or others” and upon the request of a victim or witness, among other situations.
• State law requires only one party to consent to a recording, but if asked, officers should confirm that an incident is being recorded.
• All officers involved in or witnessing a critical or significant incident, including officer-involved shootings, must turn on their cameras when instructed by a supervisor. “It is the responsibility of a scene supervisor to ensure compliance with this section,” the policy said.
• All footage is subject to the Minnesota Data Practices Act.
• Citizens are allowed access to footage of themselves unless it is part of an active investigation. Data of others in the video who don’t consent to the release must be redacted.
• Supervisors can’t access recordings “for the purpose of surveillance of any employee,” but footage can be accessed if there is a complaint of misconduct.
• Body camera data will be retained for a minimum of 90 days. Footage captured during the pilot program may be stored longer, some for as long as six years.
• Recordings will be treated as evidence.
• Body cameras and the policy will not replace in-car squad cameras and that respective policy.
Residents can voice their thoughts at a 5:30 p.m. City Council meeting Nov. 2. by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or via mail to SPPD BWC Program, 367 Grove St., St. Paul, MN 55102.