Police body camera proposal advances in St. Paul

Police body camera
Minneapolis Police Lt. Greg Reinhardt holds up two body cameras that the department will begin using Friday, Nov. 7, 2014.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

The St. Paul City Council has asked the city's police department to draw up plans for a body camera pilot program.

A resolution approved Wednesday asks the department to report back to the council by May 1 on the costs and privacy issues posed by the cameras.

Law enforcement agencies around the country are turning to body cameras as a way to provide objective evidence in cases of alleged police misconduct.

The city of Minneapolis has spent $170,000 to outfit 36 officers with the devices as part of its own pilot. It's budgeted another $1.1 million over the next two years to roll out the program department-wide.

Minneapolis has 860 sworn officers compared to about 600 in St. Paul.

The St. Paul City Council also voiced support for "legislative changes establishing a uniform state-wide law governing the data generated by the use of police-worn cameras."

Current law makes videos related to active criminal investigations private, as well as videos "clearly offensive to common sensibilities."

But other material gathered by the cameras is generally deemed public, just like most government documents.

The Minnesota Police Chiefs Association is pushing a bill at the Legislature this session that would make all body camera videos private.

The resolution also asks the police to work with the city attorney and human resources offices to investigate potential financial incentives to encourage police officers to live in the city — only 22 percent currently do.

Decades ago, St. Paul required all its officers to live within its boundaries, but state law has since banned residency requirements for public employees.

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