Police oversight commission issues recommendations on body cameras

The Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission has forwarded a series of recommendations to Police Chief Janeé Harteau on the use of police body cameras, including guidelines for when cameras should be turned on and off and how long footage should be stored.

The commission conducted a door poll earlier this year and found strong support for the use of cameras. Of 530 people surveyed, 90 percent said they were in support of the MPD using body cameras.

The MPD is expected to roll out the police body camera early 2016. Mayor Betsy Hodges and Harteau recently announced that the city has been awarded $600,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice to help fund the program.

“Implementing a body camera program will enhance transparency and accountability, and in other cities it has decreased the use of force and complaints of excessive force,” Hodges said.

Jennifer Singleton, vice chair of the Police Conduct Oversight Commission, briefed the City Council’s Public Safety & Regulatory Services Committee on the commission’s recommendations Wednesday. They include barring supervisors from reviewing footage of direct reports to avoid conflicts of interest; notifying subjects of footage when videos are released pursuant to a data practices request; partnering with an academic institution to study the use of body cameras for the first two years of the program; and requesting a follow-up study from the oversight commission in two years.

The commission also recommends that cameras be turned on for all “consensual community contacts,” all calls for service and law enforcement activities, and they should be deactivated at the conclusion of an incident or if the officer is interviewing a confidential informant. The data should be saved for 280 days.

City Council President Barb Johnson noted that it’s up to the Legislature to clarify how body camera video footage should be classified when it comes to public data requests. The state Department of Administration recently denied a request made by a coalition of police officers to make the body-camera footage private out of privacy concerns.

“This new technology is a challenge for all of us,” Johnson said.