ACLU Minnesota Criticizes Changes To Minneapolis Police Body Camera Policy

April 05, 2018 10:08 PM

The Minneapolis Police Department's overhauled body camera policy that went into effect this week is drawing criticism from the state's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The nonprofit said in a statement Thursday it was "disappointed" that several policy suggestions made to the police department over the last few years were not incorporated into the updates announced Wednesday by the mayor and police chief.

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"Last summer, we applauded then-Interim Police Chief Arradondo when he announced reforms that would require officers to activate body cameras at dispatch and require stricter minimum discipline for failure to comply," a portion of the statement reads. "The new policy only requires officers to activate their body cameras two blocks away rather than at dispatch and, in some instances, has lessened the minimum discipline for noncompliance."

RELATED: Minneapolis Police Announce Changes to Body Camera Policy

Teresa Nelson serves as the legal director for ACLU-MN.

"Our concern is that this will lead to less activations overall," Nelson said, arguing that officers could get distracted on the drive to a call for service and forget to begin recording at the appropriate time. 

Mayor Jacob Frey, who said Wednesday the policy has "teeth" for the first time since its inception, fired back at the criticism.

"Cameras can still be activated immediately upon dispatch, but what we wanted to provide was a clear deadline," Frey said. "If that deadline is passed, there's accountability and there wasn't before. Now there is."

Frey pointed to the discipline standards that outline the punishment officers can receive for noncompliance with the policy.

Nelson said another suggestion her organization has made to MPD in the past is to prohibit officers from reviewing the camera footage. The policy, since its inception, has encouraged officers to "review audio and video data before making a report or statement."

"It's important to get those impressions directly from the officer before they have the benefit of looking at the video," Nelson said.

When asked if the updated policy conversations included prohibiting officers from reviewing videos, Frey said they "predominantly" focused on the discipline aspects of the updates.

"It was on how to make sure the officers were more accountable," Frey said.

RELATED: Police Not Tracking Body Camera Use Per Council Directive

The conversations about accountability and specific policies surrounding body cameras is an ever-changing topic in police departments across the country, according to criminal justice researcher James Densley.

"There almost isn't a standard yet because it's a relatively new phenomena to have body cameras in police departments," Densley said in an interview Thursday. "Give it five to 10 years. Body cameras are going to be so uniform and we'll be so used to them, that we'll have figured out what exactly is the best way to utilize them."

MPD spokesperson John Elder said Chief Medaria Arradono has previously met with members of the ACLU and will continue to take those meetings.

"As we move forward and as technology changes, there may be tweaks to this policy," Elder said. "We expect there will be. We need to make this policy so that it properly serves the people it's meant to serve."
 

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Kirsten Swanson

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