Minneapolis police officers showed improvement in their body camera usage for the third consecutive quarter, even as department officials continue to work out the kinks of the technology, a new internal report found.
Cmdr. Chris Granger told a City Council committee Wednesday that officers are increasingly recording their interactions with the public. In the fourth quarter of 2018, officers turned on their cameras 90 percent of the time, recording an average of about 1,563 videos a day.
Over that span, usage rates occasionally dipped, an “anomaly” that officials blamed on confusion by some officers over whether the devices should be turned on for parking-enforcement duties and during snow emergencies. But compliance still rose from 84 percent in the third quarter, Granger said. He said the cameras, which the department began rolling out in 2016, have proved their worth as an evidence-gathering tool, while also helping protect officers from any unfounded civilian complaints.
“They help more than they could ever hurt — they provide context for interactions, which reduces the kind of claims that people can make” against officers, said Granger, head of the department’s Quality Assurance unit. But, he added, parts of the program are still “cumbersome.”
Less clear from Wednesday’s meeting was how the department was using the cameras to critique how officers handle incidents.
When pressed on the matter by Council Member Jeremiah Ellison, Granger said that if discovered, officer misconduct would be reported to Internal Affairs or the Office of Police Conduct Review “and once it’s referred there, we no longer have any say in it.”
Officers who chronically failed to follow department policy, which requires cameras to be activated on most public interactions, were put on an improvement plan, which requires them to check in with their supervisors after every shift and subjects them to regular audits. Granger said 66 “low performers” have been identified.
But while the department continues to show improvement, “I just don’t think it’s possible to get to 100 percent,” Granger said. “I think we’re close to the finish line, but we have more work to do, and we’re not there yet.”
Council Member Linea Palmisano pushed back, saying: “I want to point out that our goal is 100 percent compliance.”
The department overhauled its camera policy in the wake of the shooting death of Justine Ruszczyk Damond by then-officer Mohamed Noor. Noor and his partner did not have their body cameras activated at the time.
Today, nearly three-fourths of the department — or about 650 officers — have the devices, according to police spokesman John Elder.