Seeing a dip in recordings, Minneapolis police aim to tighten bodycam policy

Minneapolis Police Departments body cameras.
The Minneapolis police department wants more officers' body-worn cameras ready to record.
Maria Alejandra Cardona | MPR News 2017

The Minneapolis police department wants more officers' body-worn cameras ready to record. New draft guidelines include a requirement that officers keep their cameras on at the start of their shifts.

Minneapolis police officers are now required to activate their cameras when responding to all 911 calls and in most contacts with the public, but a recent sampling of nearly 250 videos recorded by officers late last year showed that 14 percent didn't include 30 seconds of silent video, an indication that the cameras were powered down.

"Some of the videos had no pre-event recording. Others had pre-event recordings in duration of two to three seconds. And how that occurs is the camera is powered off," Minneapolis police commander Chris Granger told members of the city council on Thursday. "And then it's powered back on and then the time between when the camera is powered on to activation determines how long that pre-event recording is going to be."

The sample also found nearly 30 percent of videos were not properly categorized or were missing case numbers. Granger said that may cause videos to be misplaced or lost.

Minneapolis Police Departments body cameras.
Minneapolis Police Department's 1st precinct held a showing of the body cameras being used and charging on a wall.
Maria Alejandra Cardona | MPR News 2017

"For example if a body-worn camera video for an arrest is incorrectly categorized as 'non-evidence,' this evidence could be lost in the deletion process prematurely," Granger added a video categorized for an arrest would be saved for seven years, instead of one.

Under the proposed policy change, officers will be required to correctly enter case numbers for their videos. Granger said that will require a change in the Axon software. He says the change should prevent officers from completing the reporting process if they enter the wrong case numbers.

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The Minneapolis Police Department updated the body camera policy last July shortly after officer Mohamed Noor shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk in an alley near her home. Noor and his partner were wearing cameras but didn't activate them in time to capture the shooting.

Since then officers have been required to record videos in more scenarios. The number of recorded videos started to decline last October through December. Granger said he's not exactly sure why that is.

Council member Linea Palmisano represents the neighborhood where Ruszczyk was killed. She says the requirement just to have the body camera on at certain times more than doubled the amount of such video being recorded daily.

"Before the policy change to have cameras on at dispatch, there were roughly 500 and 1,000 videos per day being captured," Palmisano said.

The revised body camera policy is expected to be implemented before the end of the month.