Police patrolling Minneapolis parks could be wearing body cameras by late fall.
The Minneapolis Park Board met to discuss the policy Wednesday evening.
The Park Board included $45,000 in its 2017 budget to outfit all 35 sworn patrol officers with cameras. The cameras should lead to “increased Park Police officer accountability, better documentation and evidence, and reduction in conduct complaints and applications of force,” according to Park Board documents.
Park police would join a growing list of police departments in the Twin Cities area that have outfitted officers with body cameras.
Minneapolis park Police Chief Jason Ohotto said the use of body cameras has reduced complaints and the use of force in other departments. Under the proposed policy, park officers would not be required to alert people that they are being recorded.
“This is one of many tools that we’re using to serve the public better,” Ohotto said.
At a hearing, Emmanuel Ortiz from the racial justice advocacy group Parks and Power criticized the park police’s policy and said the camera will “become a tool of surveillance.” Ortiz says he doesn’t agree that cameras “make our communities safe — in particular our communities of color.”
The proposed park police policy is similar to that of the Minneapolis Police Department. Officers would turn on their cameras for vehicle stops, during interactions with suspects, when using force, and during verbal confrontations, property searches and arrests. Normal interactions with civilians inside and outside parks would not be recorded.
Some board commissioners were wary of park police potentially sharing data with MPD and other law enforcement groups including immigration officers. Park Commissioner Brad Bourn said the use of body cameras is important if done properly.
“It’s a good tool for accountability,” Bourn said. “We do want to make sure that the data we collect is used in the intent we collect it for.”
The public can comment on the policy through an online survey until June 20.