MINNEAPOLIS - Minneapolis Police will make fundamental changes in the department's body camera policy in the wake of an officer-involved shooting that is drawing worldwide scrutiny.
Interim Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced Wednesday that beginning this weekend, every officer on the force will be required to immediately activate their body camera each time they are dispatched on an event, or when they initiate an interaction with someone they encounter.
"What good is a camera when it is not being used when it is needed the most?" Arradondo asked.
Situations in which body cameras MUST be activated include:
- Any contact involving allegations of criminal activity, including contact with reporting person, victim, suspect or witness.
- Suspicious person stops
- Vehicle pursuits
- Any search of person, vehicles or buildings
- When advising person of Miranda rights
- Any use of force situation
- Tactical or forced entries
Arradondo says the policy change takes effect this Saturday. Arradondo said the department has purchased 'auto-activation' technology that is being installed in squad cars, which will automatically turn on the body cameras of officers inside the vehicle when lights and sirens are activated.
The new policy also clarifies the disciplinary range for officers who don't activate their body cameras. Sanctions can range from a 10-day suspension to termination.
The changes come in the wake of the fatal shooting of 40-year-old Justine Damond by an officer responding to her 911 call of a possible sexual assault taking place. Officer Mohamed Noor shot Damond as she approached the window of his partner, but there was no video record of the event because both Noor and his Partner failed to turn on their body cameras.
“It has been a tough 10 days,” said Mayor Betsy Hodges, referring to the fallout from Damond's shooting. “One of the toughest things all of us in Minneapolis have had to face -- after all the time, money, and energy put into making sure that body cameras were in place -- we didn’t have body camera footage in an incident where it mattered a great deal. These changes are what we can do today given current law and existing technology.”
"We are not passing judgment on a single officer, nor are we looking at a single event," Arradondo insisted. "We are responding to our communities and to recent ongoing assessment."
The chief told reporters that while the department's full rollout of the body camera program happened just eight months ago, the process of changing and enhancing the program has been ongoing. Supervisors are being trained in how to audit and evaluate the camera use of their officers, and are finding that some are activating the cameras frequently, while others are barely using them at all.
"The point is the cameras give everyone a clearer picture of an event," Arradondo added. "We want our body cameras to accurately depict an event no matter what the circumstances are, for the sake of our officers and for the sake of our community."
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, made the following statement Wednesday:
“The rapid changes to the body camera policy initiated at the direction of Mayor Hodges are a knee-jerk reaction and politically motivated.
The Federation worked collectively with the administration for a long period of time to develop our existing policy. The modifications of the policy should undergo the same process and not be rushed by political influence.
The death of Justine Damon was a terrible tragedy, however the officers were in compliance with existing body camera policy usage at the time.
Changes need to be carefully examined and made collectively by the administration and the federation.
The upcoming changes will result in a much larger amount of data stored which is meaningless while officers are in route to a call. Officers tactics discussed with one another while responding to a call should not be publicly disseminated. Only the interactions taken at the call should be recorded. The policy should change activation to arrival rather than upon dispatch.
Discipline for noncompliance is vague and ambiguous.
We need to leave politics out of policing."