The body camera technology is still new to Minneapolis officers, but a report released Wednesday indicates it is having an impact on the behavior of police and the people they interact with.
It's hard to fully measure the impact of cameras on the complaint system. Downtown precinct officers started wearing body cameras last summer, and the other precincts were equipped with the devices by the end of 2016.
However, the director of the city's Office of Police Conduct Review, Imani Jaafar, told members of the Minneapolis City Council that the influence of cameras was noteworthy. Jaafar said police video was available in the vast majority of complaints.
While it sometimes took staff members a little extra time to review video, she said.it did make it easier for them to determine the most appropriate route for a complaint to follow.
Jaafar said she noticed something else, too: "One thing that is interesting to note, between this year and last year the language and attitude complaints have dropped," she said. "We theorized a little bit that it may be due to body cameras."
Police leaders have also offered anecdotal evidence that officers and citizens use more courteous language when they know they're being recorded.
Jaafar also said police chief Janee Harteau acted swiftly and often issued discipline against officers facing credible allegations of misconduct in 2016. According to the annual report compiled by the Office of Police Conduct Review, around 30 of the more than 200 complaint cases made it to Harteau's desk.
Jafaar said when allegations against an officer were sustained by a review panel, the chief often made disciplinary decisions.
"Eight letters of reprimand went out, seven suspensions, one demotion, and two terminations — all as a result of Office of Police Conduct Review cases," said Jaafar.
Jaafar said often complaint cases are dismissed because they are filed against officers who work for other departments, like Metro Transit police or the Park Police.
Critics of the review system say in too many instances, officers facing complaints receive training or coaching — which isn't a disciplinary action, according to department policy. Advocates for police accountability have also criticized Harteau for not issuing tougher discipline against officers who are the subject of complaints.
The chief's disciplinary determinations can be challenged and sometimes reversed. Last year, Harteau fired an officer who appealed the decision and got his job back.