St. Anthony police body cams could be recording this fall


file photo • St. Anthony police officers could begin wearing and using body-worn cameras as soon as this fall, according to Chief Jon Mangseth.

At the July 24 St. Anthony City Council Meeting, St. Anthony Police Chief Jon Mangseth said that police-worn body cameras had been ordered and were on their way. 

In an interview, he said he’s hopeful that the body cameras will be rolling by this fall. 

Police-worn body cameras have been a hotly researched and debated topic in response to recent high profile police killings, such as the shooting of Michael Brown in St. Louis in 2014, or the chokehold killing of Eric Garner in New York City the same year. 

Those incidents were felt around the nation, compelling communities and police departments to implement body camera policy. 

The St. Anthony Police Department, said Mangseth, has been considering body-worn cameras since cameras were installed in department squad cars around 2011. 

Then came the killings in 2014, then the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by a St. Anthony officer during a traffic stop in June 2016. 

Last November, the St. Anthony City Council unanimously approved a joint agreement with Roseville for body camera funding, as well as camera policy and implementation. 

The body cameras were ordered July 23 and should arrive within four to six weeks, said Mangseth, and the policy is in its final draft. All there’s left to do is implementation.

St. Anthony’s 20 police officers will undergo policy training while waiting for the body camera shipment to arrive.

“If it was as simple as going to local stores to buy cameras and putting them on officers, we would of had them on officers last fall,” said Mangseth. The lag is due to time for policy considerations and time taken to apply for a grant to help pay for body cameras, which the department was awarded. 

 

Body camera policy

Mangseth said a lot of body camera policy is dictated by state statute. 

Aside from basic operation, the bulk of policy training for St. Anthony police will center on the issue of when it is appropriate for an officer to turn off their body camera, such as for privacy concerns. 

Police will be trained to recognize circumstances that shouldn’t be recorded and make the determination to shut off their camera. For example, officers are instructed to shut off their camera when they are the first responder to a medical situation like a child birth. This prevents that footage from being somehow leaked or disseminated online, said Mangseth. 

Other such circumstances are when an officer is interviewing a victim of sexual or domestic assault, or when an officer is undercover. 

Mangseth said St. Anthony police consulted, among others, with city attorneys, the Ramsey and Hennepin county attorney offices, the League of Minnesota Cities, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, neighboring police departments, victim centers like the Harriet Tubman Center and Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, and the St. Anthony-New Brighton School District. 

There are parts of body camera policy where individual departments have discretion. The question of whether or not a cop can view their own body camera footage is left to each agency. 

Mangseth said St. Anthony will allow officers to review their body camera footage when writing police reports. The exception would be for “critical incidents,” he said.

St. Anthony police video will be stored on a server maintained by Roseville. How long footage is kept is also dictated by state statute, said Mangseth. 

According to an October 2017 St. Anthony police study, footage of a narcotics or DWI arrest stays for two years, and a traffic ticket for 180 days. 

 

Seamless recording

With the arrival of the body camera, in addition to the squad cameras and cameras at the police station, Mangseth said St. Anthony police “should have a seamless recording” of officers interacting with members of the public and people being detained. From contact on the street, to transportation to the police department, to any processing and booking at the station, to transportation to jail, all of it should be recorded when the complete system is in place, he said. 

Alongside the new body cameras, the squad and booking area cameras are getting an update. The new cameras will all be high definition, and all synced. 

As all of the equipment arrives, Mangseth said the department is at the mercy of the installers and technicians. Officers can’t hit record until squad car and booking cameras are installed and body cameras arrive and body camera training is finished. 

“This is something officers have wanted for some time,” said Mangseth. When St. Anthony police added squad car cameras around 2011, everybody embraced and wanted the technology, he added.

Mangseth said he found the squad cameras “extremely valuable,” particularly when fielding complaints from the general public, and that the audio and video is easily accessible. 

 

– Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo or a 651-748-7815

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