Investigation: Minnesota Police Use Body Cameras Significantly Grows


“We have seen significant growth in the use of body cameras in the state police departments of Minnesota,” said Jeff Potts, executive director of the MCPA, an organization representing more than 300 law enforcement agencies. law, from rural areas to the subway, some chief police officers and about 150 command staff across the state.

The group did a similar investigation five years ago. Potts said the focus of the investigation was primarily to get a sense of how many agencies statewide are currently using body cameras or considering launching a body camera program.

There is a noticeable shift in attitudes towards body cameras worn by police, Potts said, with an overwhelming 90% of participants stating that they were in favor of wearing body cameras and that many found “very useful. “to have body cameras to assemble. evidence, complaint resolution tools and increased transparency with the public.

However, it also does not mean that those interested have the capacity to have and maintain programs.

According to the data, about two-thirds of law enforcement officials who responded to the survey cite “lack of funding” as one of the main reasons their departments do not have body cameras. Potts said this is a significant hurdle for agencies wanting to implement body camera programs because much of the financial burden falls on an individual agency.

“A strong majority say the reason they don’t use them is the type of financial challenges of a body camera program,” Potts said. “They are very expensive. Not only is the purchase of the camera, you are paying somehow for the storage of the data. There’s a law, part of the Minnesota Body Camera Act requires an annual audit, and those audits don’t come cheap. Departments that have not launched a body camera program. … This is particularly difficult for small agencies.

About 28% of respondents reported having fewer than five officers in their police department. The lack of body cameras for small agencies continues to draw criticism and anger from communities where critical shooting incidents have taken place, even in rural parts of the state.

Where the answers are scarce

In December 2020, St. Louis County Sheriff’s Deputies shot dead Estavon Elioff, 19 at Mont Fer. Authorities said he had a knife. However, St. Louis County MPs are not equipped with body cameras. The cameras of the brigade cars also did not capture the incident. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said there were no other witnesses to the shooting. MPs were cleared of all criminal charges in February.

Some law enforcement officials immediately embraced the use of body cameras as a way to improve transparency and accountability. These factors are crucial to building public confidence in law enforcement, said Pat Nelson, chairman of the criminal justice department and director of the law enforcement program at Minnesota State University, Mankato. , home to the state’s largest four-year law enforcement training program.

“We’re talking about accountability and legitimacy, there are differences,” Nelson said. “Each community has different perceptions and interactions with its law enforcement agencies. There are those who have no trust and no legitimacy within their community between their police forces and their citizens. “

There is public skepticism about police accounts of fatal encounters with civilians, especially when there is no footage. A woman who was with Winston Smith when he was shot by Sheriff’s deputies in Minneapolis on June 3 has disputed police accounts of the incident. According to the BCA, there is evidence showing that Smith fired a gun from inside his car. However, the witness said she did not see him with a gun. The deputies who shot Smith were not wearing body cameras.

Protesters are still holding vigils near the site of Smith’s death, more than a month after the shooting.

There were also no images of the Ricardo Torres shooting by Olivia Police Department Officer Aaron Clouse on July 4. The BCA confirmed that Olivia’s police department was not using body cameras at the time.

The Olivia Police Department directed all inquiries about the incident to the BCA. And Olivia’s city council did not respond to requests for interviews from MPR News. The lack of camera footage and other unanswered questions led the Torres family to seek an independent investigation from the FBI.

Last week, grieving family and community members dissatisfied with the first reports from law enforcement on the incident, reunited in Olivia to demand answers. The BCA said a sawn-off shotgun was found at the scene of the shooting. But relatives of Torres said he would not have posed a threat to police.

“It’s not fair,” said Natasha Lindner, Torres’ girlfriend. “He didn’t deserve this. That’s not the kind of person (Ricky) was. No no never. He was a good man with a good heart.

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