Body-worn cameras

The Carver County Sheriff’s Office isn’t alone in its move to use body-worn cameras. The Minnesota State Patrol has also recently unveiled a body camera program. Pictured is a State Patrol Trooper wearing a body camera.

The Carver County Sheriff’s Office began training and rolling out body-worn cameras for deputies in October. According to Carver County Sheriff Jason Kamerud, everything is going as expected and is working well.

County deputies have embraced the new technology, Kamerud said, in an email. They are performing as trained, and deputies know the camera systems will corroborate that, he said.

The Sheriff’s Office hasn’t received a tremendous amount of feedback from citizens about the body-worn cameras. Overall, most people know the technology is becoming the norm and welcome the transparency video data provides, Kamerud said.

“This project was properly planned and executed,” Kamerud said. “We enjoyed the benefit of calling upon colleagues who had experience with introducing this technology, and we were able to leverage those experiences to help us be successful.”

Body-worn cameras will be a normal part of deputies’ daily lives in the Sheriff’s Office for the foreseeable future, Kamerud said. The Sheriff’s Office will continue to evaluate technologies and make appropriate adjustments along the way, he added.

The initiative has been successful on a variety of metrics, Kamerud said.

According to Kamerud, the project was completed under budget; employees and the county attorney are satisfied with the policies and procedures related to camera use; there is increased operational transparency for residents; and the in-car camera systems have been supplemented with body-worn cameras to capture additional video evidence.

The body-worn cameras were a part of the 2021 Carver County Sheriff’s Office budget and will be part of the annual budget moving forward. Around $95,000 was allocated for 2021, according to Kamerud.

According to Kamerud, body-worn cameras are generally activated when a deputy has contact with a citizen, and can be turned off when it is reasonably believed that there is no longer a reason to record.

“I welcome any community insight or input about these or other police technologies or practices,” Kamerud said.

Body-worn cameras are a trend and an initiative that other departments are implementing, said Carver County Administrator Dave Hemze. Camera footage provides clear visual evidence which is good for both sides no matter what happened, he added.

So far, the initiative has been running smoothly. It’s about public trust and video evidence that includes audio helps to build that, Hemze said.

Support from the sheriff, county attorney and county board was important, said Hemze, who added he was proud of leadership across the organization in making the decision.

CHASKA POLICE

The Chaska Police Department implemented body-worn cameras as a pilot program in June 2018, according to Investigation Division & Support Services Commander Lt. Chris George.

The department received the cameras as a nationwide free trial through Axon, a company that supplies police body cameras.

The body-worn camera program was implemented long-term in June 2019 and will be used going forward, George said, in an email. Each officer and community service officer is issued a camera as part of their uniform.

The body-worn cameras integrate with the department’s in-car video systems. When an officer activates emergency lights in a squad car, the camera is automatically activated and begins recording. When an officer arms their Taser, any body-worn camera within Bluetooth range will activate and begin recording, George said.

Beside automatic activation, body-worn cameras are manually turned on by officers during every call for service and any other interaction an officer deems necessary, George said. The cameras are recording at all times in order to capture 30 seconds of retroactive activity from when an officer activates their camera, he added.

According to George, body-worn cameras have been useful in promoting transparency and accountability. The cameras have also been helpful to show what law enforcement experiences.

“Cameras provide a glimpse into what our officers face on a daily basis, outlining the dangers they face and the level of compassion they provide to those they come in to contact with,” George said.

The biggest challenges for the department came before the implementation of the body-worn camera program. There were many questions from the public and among the department’s staff regarding the dissemination of information and data collected on body-worn cameras, George said.

According to George, once the Minnesota Legislature provided guidance relating to data classification, it was easier to educate the public and staff members about the dissemination of data.

LARGER SCALE

Carver County law enforcement isn’t alone in its move to body-worn cameras. The Minnesota State Patrol also recently unveiled a body camera program.

In an effort to increase transparency and accountability, the Minnesota State Patrol will outfit all troopers with body cameras by June 30, 2022. The initiative was funded by the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz earlier this year.

Forty troopers will be amongst the first to wear body cameras on a full-time basis, according to a release from the state patrol. The cameras will be activated during any contact with citizens such as traffic stops or crash investigations.

This is the largest deployment of body-worn cameras in the state and will include approximately 645 troopers, in addition to capitol security officers and commercial vehicle inspectors.

In addition to the body-worn cameras, a new camera system will also be installed in every trooper’s squad in order for camera technology to be uniform and synched.

In 2020, troopers interacted 411,316 times with citizens, including 325,505 traffic stops and more than 30,000 crashes, according to the release.

The State Patrol’s general order for body camera operational procedures can be found at bit.ly/operationalprocedures.

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