Ramsey County sheriff pulls deputies from federal task force over bodycam policy

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher
Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher announces his office's new body-camera policy during a press conference on Sept. 27, 2019.
Nina Moini | MPR News 2019

The Ramsey County sheriff has pulled his deputies from a federal task force amid a disagreement about the use of body cameras. The move comes after deputies shot and killed a man last week while trying to arrest him on a felony firearms warrant.

Hennepin and Ramsey County sheriffs’ deputies working with a U.S. Marshals Service violent offender task force shot and killed Winston Boogie Smith Jr. in an Uptown Minneapolis parking ramp on Thursday.

The killing of the 32-year-old Black man prompted immediate calls for body camera footage to be released.

The Marshals Service said none was recorded because of a rule prohibiting the cameras.

The Minnesota U.S. Attorney's Office said Saturday that the Marshals Service "began to phase-in" cameras in February following a Justice Department policy change.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher says the Marshals Service has yet to implement the cameras, and until they do, his deputies will no longer work with the task force.

“Despite regular requests from local law enforcement, the normal refrain from the Marshals office has been and continues to be ‘We’re working on the problem.’ Neither the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office nor the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office was offered the opportunity to use body cameras until last Friday in the wake of Winston Smith’s death,” Fletcher said in a statement released Monday evening.

Fletcher said on Friday he signed an “addendum” to an agreement with the Marshals Service that would allow Ramsey deputies to wear body cameras. But Fletcher said he later learned the federal agency was still working on a policy and would continue to prohibit body camera use.

A spokesperson for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department said while deputies are equipped with body cameras, they do not wear them while serving on the North Star Fugitive Task Force, but that they do “welcome” activation of the new policy outlined by the Justice Department.

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