Jen Kochaver, Staff Writer
Effective April 4, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) updated their body camera usage policy. Officers now must turn on cameras at least two blocks before the scene and immediately after receiving a call if they are closer than two blocks away when the call is received. Additionally, officers must alert a superior if their body camera cannot be activated for any reason, and consequences for failing to activate a body camera as required have been updated. These consequences range from written reprimand to 40 hours of suspension to termination, depending on the circumstances of the encounter.
This change in policy comes as part of an almost year-long wave of scrutiny which began after the death of Justine Damond, an unarmed white woman who was shot by a Minneapolis police officer after calling 911. There was outrage when it was discovered that neither the officer who shot her, Mohamed Noor, nor his partner had their body cameras activated. This pushback lead to a change in body camera policy effective July 29, 2017, which required all Minneapolis officers to activate their body cameras as soon as they were dispatched.
“Any body camera policy worth its salt must have consequences,” said Mayor Jacob Frey at a news conference on April 4. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has expressed concerns that this newest policy update is not necessarily worth its salt, and, in fact, rolls back improvements made to body camera policy in July 2017, pointing out that the “within two blocks” rule implemented April 4 is actually more lenient than previous policy which required officers to activate body cameras at time of dispatch. MPD claims this change was made due to data storage concerns.
On Oct. 11, Mayor Betsy Hodges signed a city council action requiring MPD to report quarterly on the total number and percentage of body cameras being turned on when dispatch data indicates that they should have been, any change in body camera policy implemented or being considered, documenting who is in charge of maintaining effectiveness of the body camera program and recognizing emerging themes and identified issues found through the examined data. These reports were scheduled to begin after the first quarter of 2018 which just recently concluded.
Though a change in police policy is only as good as its implementation, the goal of this change in regulation is to implement a clear expectation that police officers will be using their body cameras. As Medaria Arradondo said as acting police chief in July, “What good is a camera if it is not being used when it may be needed the most?”
This article first appeared in the Friday, April 13, Edition of The Echo.