New Brighton drafts policy for police body cameras

In August, New Brighton’s public safety department sent out a survey to residents to gauge interest in the department implementing a police body-worn camera program in the city. 

Receiving a response overwhelmingly supportive of such a program, the department proceeded accordingly. It emailed a follow-up survey on Oct. 31, asking residents to read over a draft of a policy proposal, which was “derived from the model document developed by the League of Minnesota Cities,” NBDPS said in the email .

This latest survey asks residents to read the draft and leave a comment about the proposal by or before Friday, Nov. 10.

Having police officers wear cameras is nothing new. Minneapolis does it, as do hundreds of agencies across the nation, from Alaska to Florida. And with the support of both Mayor Val Johnson and her challenger in the Nov. 7 election, Sharon Doffing, it appears that New Brighton might not be far behind in implementing such a program, no matter who holds the office.

While cost and other sometimes-complex considerations have yet to be finalized by the City of New Brighton and its department of public safety, the agency itself has moved forward.

According to NBDPS, “the primary purpose of using body-worn cameras is to capture evidence arising from police-citizen encounters.”

While there is some opposition to officers wearing cameras, mostly due to the question of how such policies can co-exist with privacy laws, many see the cameras as a move to strengthen police accountability and transparency. 

Local activists in favor of having officers wear cameras have said such footage would have been key in helping better interpret the shooting death of Philando Castile at the hands of a St. Anthony police officer in Falcon Heights in 2016. 

On July 15 of this year, Justine Damond was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer after she had dialed 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley near her home. 

Though they were wearing cameras, neither of the two responding officers had activated them in time to capture the shooting or what happened in the moments just prior to it.

Damond’s death directly led to the resignation of Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau, as well as camera activation policy changes. 

According to Tony Paetznick, director of public safety in New Brighton, 510 residents responded to the department’s inquiry earlier this summer.  

Paetznick said 87 percent of those participants were in favor of cameras; 10 percent were undecided. 

“Only 17 [people] stated that they did not support the implementation of such a program,” he said. 

The proposed policy itself is fairly straightforward. It states the department would authorize and require officers to use department-issued body-worn cameras in a number of situations, and to administer the data as provided by law.

Some of those situations include pursuits, vehicle or pedestrian stops, searches, seizures, arrests, uses of force, adversarial contacts, and during other activities likely to yield information having evidentiary value.

The cameras won’t be recording at all times, however, as there’s a stipulation in the proposed policy that “officers have discretion to record or not record general citizen contacts.”

To sift through the 10-page policy draft, contact the department at 651-767-0640 for a link to the survey. 

 

– Jesse Poole can be reached at bulletin@lillienews.com.

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