Minnesota's police chiefs overwhelmingly support use of bodycams, survey finds

65% of the chiefs who said their department doesn't use bodycams cited a lack of resources as the reason

By Nick Ferraro
Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — The vast majority of Minnesota police chiefs — more than 80 percent — say they support the use of body-worn cameras by police officers, according to a recent survey conducted by the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.

The survey, which was distributed via email to more than 300 Minnesota police chiefs over the past six weeks, also found that more than 100 municipal police departments in the state are now deploying the technology.

The use of body-worn cameras has nearly doubled in Minnesota police departments since a similar survey was conducted by the association five years ago, executive director Jeff Potts said.

Burnsville police became the first department in Minnesota to deploy body cameras when it started a pilot program in 2010. The Minneapolis Police Department, the state's largest, began a rollout in 2014, while St. Paul police, the second-largest, followed suit in 2017.

"More agencies, large and small, are deploying body-worn cameras — or considering their deployment — to gather crucial evidence and enhance transparency with their communities," Potts said in a statement issued Friday by the chiefs' association.

But with the benefits of body-worn cameras, comes significant financial challenges, Potts said. Of the 214 police chiefs who responded to the survey, 95 said they do not have body-worn cameras — and more than 65 percent of those say a lack of resources is the reason.

Beyond the costs of the equipment and data storage, the high price tag for comprehensive audits, which are required by state statute, have prevented agencies and city councils from purchasing the technology, forced them to discontinue usage or made them think twice about the long-term return on the investment, the survey found. Those challenges are particularly great for small agencies, Potts said.

[READ: How to buy body-worn cameras (eBook)]

Legislators this past session considered a bill that included $1 million in funding annually for local agencies to acquire body-worn cameras. However, it was not included in the final $2.6 billion public safety bill — an omission that was "extremely disappointing," said Potts, noting that the funding will equip state law enforcement agencies with the technology.

"We believe the more police officers with body-worn cameras equates to greater accountability for law enforcement; that's what our communities desire and deserve," Potts said. "We will continue to look for solutions to make acquiring the technology more affordable for agencies of all sizes and share best-practices with our members."

(c)2021 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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