The Minneapolis City Council has unanimously approved a $4 million, five-year contract that will allow the Police Department to outfit all of its officers with body cameras.
The vote on Friday followed more than a year of discussion and planning, including a four-month pilot project during which 36 officers wore the cameras. The contract with Taser International will include 587 cameras, storage, docking stations and related equipment, along with 300 “conducted electrical weapons,” commonly known as Tasers.
The city projects it will spend a total of $6.4 million over the next four years to cover the contract, plus additional staff to review and redact the footage and respond to records requests.
Police officials have said they expect to begin issuing the cameras to officers in May, starting with the downtown First Precinct. The Fourth Precinct, covering north Minneapolis, will be next, and cameras will be distributed to officers in the city’s other three precincts by the end of the year.
The Police Department has not yet released its body camera policy and city officials are still waiting on state lawmakers to weigh in on a statewide law that would determine if some parts of body camera videos should be public. Meanwhile, some council members have expressed concerns over the city’s ability to handle public requests for the footage, as the police unit that would handle those requests is already backlogged with requests for other police data.
Friday’s action included a separate vote on a plan meant to address some of those issues. The council directed police officials to return to its public safety committee meeting March 2 to discuss the department’s plans for public involvement in the development of the body camera policy. It also told police to come back to the council April 6 to present the full policy.
The council also asked for reports on the processing of body camera data a few months after the program begins, and for officials to come up with a long-term plan to pay for additional staff or resources required to handle the likely uptick in public data requests.
Council Member Linea Palmisano said she and Council Members Blong Yang and Cam Gordon also intend to develop a set of recommendations to help the Police Department catch up on its growing backlog of records requests. She said failing to do so could impede the city’s goal of being more transparent.
“These things stand squarely in our way of beginning a body camera program that is responsive to the public,” she said.