Minneapolis residents speak up about police body cameras

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Donald Joseph at body camera hearing
Minneapolis resident Donald Joseph told the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission that he believes body cameras will ensure greater police accountability.
Tom Scheck | MPR News

Citizens in Minneapolis had their first chance Saturday to comment on whether they think police should wear body cameras.

The Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission, which advises the department on policy, held its first public hearing on body cameras in north Minneapolis. A majority of the 20 people in attendance told the commission that they believe police should wear body cameras to increase accountability.

C.J. Czaia, a personal injury and criminal defense attorney, said he believes body cameras should be used and should be kept on at all times.

"If I'm an officer I want the video camera," he said. "If you're against it that means you're probably [doing] something wrong, because if you're doing it right you want that backup."

Others told the commission that they believe body cameras will ensure that police are not overstepping their authority. Others worried that the city is spending money on cameras instead of directly addressing police misconduct.

"This is a distraction from real accountability," said Jan Nye, a member of Communities United Against Police Brutality.

The commission is tasked with advising Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau on the best policies regarding body cameras. In particular, the commission wants to know whether police should keep the cameras running at all time, whether a citizen should be able to ask to turn off the camera and whether there should be consequences for failing to activate a camera.

"We need to have as many voices if not all of the voices represented," said Commission Chair Andrea Brown.

Brown says there will be two more public hearings over the next month to gather more public input.

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