St. Cloud City Council members have unanimously approved a 2021 budget that includes money for police body cameras.
It's about time.
Mayor Dave Kleis said it was something the city has been wanting to do for a long time, but cost prohibited early adoption. Other area policing agencies — Sauk Rapids, Waite Park and the Stearns and Sherburne County sheriffs' departments — all went first.
We get it: Cameras cost money, and so does storage of video files. The city estimates the project will cost St. Cloud roughly $300,000 to start.
So it's good that St. Cloud finally made this decision. But it's the beginning, not the end, of the process.
We know that body cameras only work when officers use them, and the footage captured by them only protects officers and the public when the community is confident that it is handled in compliance with the law.
And we trust that it will be. But too many communities, especially communities of color or poverty, have little recent reason to trust anyone in a police uniform.
So a strong St. Cloud policy on when and where body cameras should be used, specifically when they may be turned off, can make police body cameras an effective tool in rebuilding the trust eroded by decades of officer killings, and wrongful killings by officers, around the nation.
The public should also involve itself in learning about and having a say in how Central Minnesota's largest police agency will handle this powerful new tool. That is the community's role in protecting its protectors, and its people.