St. Paul considers body cams for cops

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Police body camera
Minneapolis Police Lt. Greg Reinhardt holds up two body cameras.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

St. Paul is considering whether to join the growing list of cities whose police officers wear body cameras.

The city council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a resolution asking the police department to include a camera pilot project in its budget request for next year.

Council member Chris Tolbert says the cameras increase police accountability while also debunking unfounded complaints against the officers.

"It also helps prosecute crimes, and also lets the public ... or the prosecutor or any investigator really see what happened to that police officer and what the police officer sees in real time," Tolbert said.

Police departments around the country are turning to body cameras in the wake of last year's riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Minneapolis has outfitted 36 officers with cameras as part of its own pilot.

Council member Dan Bostrom, a former St. Paul police officer, says most cops have no problem wearing cameras, but he wants to make sure the videos aren't released publicly.

"You're never going to see a squad car vehicle inside somebody's home or apartment, or come across a homicide scene that's the blodiest, goriest thing you ever saw in your life, or beaten children, and those other kinds of things," Bostrom said. "Those officers walk into those kinds of situations regularly."

A bill introduced at the state Legislature last week would classify body camera video as private. Open government advocates counter that keeping the videos secret defeats the purpose of holding officers accountable.

Tolbert's resolution, co-sponsored by Dai Thao, also asks the department to use financial incentives to encourage more officers to live in St. Paul. Only 22 percent of officers live in the city.

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