The shooting of Justine Ruszczyk and trial of former officer Mohamed Noor

Minneapolis police officers using body cams more

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

Minneapolis police officers are getting better at turning their body cameras on when they're supposed to, according to a department report submitted to Minneapolis City Council members on Wednesday.

Officers have been increasingly complying with the policy since the city started to track it more closely two years ago.

The update comes just a week after a jury convicted former police officer Mohamed Noor in the fatal shooting of 911 caller Justine Ruszczyk in July 2017.

Evidence presented at trial showed officers at the shooting scene turning their body cameras on and off, with some expressing confusion about the policy.

In the first three months of 2019, the department reports that officers turned on their cameras for 93 percent of incidents required by the department's policy, according to a Cmdr. Chris Granger. That's up from 90 percent in the last three months of 2018.

An audit in 2017 found that officers were complying with the department's body camera policy about half the time.

The department's body camera policy was tightened in the aftermath of the Ruszczyk shooting. Granger said the department has continued to broaden the policy, including outfitting investigators with body cameras in addition to patrol officers.

The big change this month from a policy perspective is that "if there's a uniform, there's a body camera," said council member Linea Palmisano.

Some of the department's biggest gains occurred in traffic enforcement incidents and calls for unknown trouble.

Council member Alondra Cano, who chairs the public safety and emergency management committee, asked Granger whether the department has been tracking officer attitudes towards the cameras.

Granger said there are national surveys about that, but that the department doesn't have any plans to survey officers. Anecdotally, he said he's "heard folks expressing that this is a useful tool."

The department has also implemented a mentoring program, which requires officers who haven't been complying with the policy to document their body camera use in writing and meet with a supervisor.

In addition, the department plans to train patrol lieutenants to audit body camera usage of officers under their command.

The committee also approved $330,000 to fund a collaboration between police and mental-health responders. If approved by the full City Council, the program would be rolled out to all precincts by June.