The Minneapolis Police Department has been awarded a $600,000 U.S. Justice Department grant to help purchase body cameras for all patrol officers.
The money will help defray the costs of outfitting the department's street cops with the tiny cameras to record their interactions with the public, amid growing cries, in Minneapolis and elsewhere, for their adoption following the killings last year of several unarmed black men by white police officers. Minneapolis will have to match the federal funds dollar for dollar.
The city had already set aside about $1.1 million for the body camera program, which is expected to roll out early next year. The MPD recently concluded its monthslong pilot program, during which 36 officers from three precincts tested the cameras while out on patrol, and is expected to pick a vendor later this fall.
“Part of Minneapolis’ transition into a 21st-century city involves transforming our approach to policing,” Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a news release on Monday afternoon. “Implementing a body camera program will enhance transparency and accountability, and in other cities it has decreased the use of force and complaints of excessive force."
Chief Janeé Harteau added:
“We are extremely grateful the Justice Department has validated the work of the MPD and the City of Minneapolis on our body camera pilot program.”
At least 41 Minnesota law enforcement agencies have adopted the devices, even though research evidence is mixed on their effectiveness. St. Paul and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe police forces were also awarded grant money, with St. Paul receiving $600,000 and Leech Lake securing about $42,000.
Earlier this month, a civilian oversight board enthusiastically endorsed a series of recommendations regarding the cameras’ use.
Among the recommendations: requiring patrol officers to activate their cameras during all service calls, law enforcement activities and any noncriminal encounters with a citizen, as long as they receive consent; and barring officers from editing or viewing body camera footage before writing their incident reports under most circumstances.
On Monday, the Justice Department awarded $19.3 million in grants to 73 law enforcement agencies in 42 states, part of an Obama administration program announced in May, the Associated Press reported.
Federal officials officials told the AP that more than 200 police departments were passed over for the grant.