BP Police experiment with body cams
A body-worn camera is a device that serves as another tool for police to do their job and to ensure public safety, says Greg Skillestad, chief of police for Blooming Prairie.
Blooming Prairie police officers are in the process of experimenting with body-worn cameras through a trial program offered by Axon.
The body cameras, the size of a deck of cards, are routinely mounted with magnets to a police officer's uniform.
The primary purpose of using body-worn cameras is to capture evidence arising from police-citizen encounters.
Police body cameras are proven to increase officer safety and reduce department liability with decreased use-of-force incidents and reduced false complaints by citizens.
Chief Skillestad has been in contact with Owatonna Police Department Captain Jeff Mundale in evaluating needs for law enforcement agencies to use body cameras.
Skillestad and his officers have already been using two body cams placed on loan by Axon. "We would like to have four cameras for our full-time personnel and one for our part-time officers to share," says Skillestad.
A Blooming Prairie Police Department policy has been drafted to provide guidelines according to state law which governs the use of BWC's and to administer the data that is compiled by the cameras.
Compliance with these proposed guidelines is mandatory, but it is recognized that officers must also attend to other primary duties and the safety of all concerned.
Demonstrations on the body cams will be available at a public BP Police Department Open House from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14 at the Police headquarters contained in the Blooming Prairie City Center.
Copies of a temporary policy developed during the testing phase of the cameras will be available at the open house. "We welcome all public input," Skillestad says.
Under the temporary policy, officers will be required to activate the cameras when responding to all calls for service, during all law enforcement related encounters and activities and during any police-citizen contact that becomes adversarial.
Officers have no duty, Skillestad says, to inform people that a camera is being operated. If officers are asked, they must clearly tell citizens if they are or are not being recorded.
A copy of the body camera policy has been given to City Attorney Jason Iacovino for review. The city council will likely discuss the department's wishes for body cameras at an upcoming council meeting.
Skillestad said to outfit the BP Police Department with five body cameras could cost somewhere between $8,000-$10,000.
The chief and a superior would be required to have a licensed secure site for the material gathered by body cameras.
"Right now, we had been learning on positioning the wireless cameras," Skillestad said. "Again, it is a good idea for us to use and it is not fail safe because it will not show everything," Skillestad added.
These cameras will hold police officers and the public accountable, Skillestad believes.
The cameras would be routinely turned on by an officer for every incident they encounter, Skillestad said.
The chief or his designee may provide specific instructions or standard operating procedures for BWC use to officers assigned to specialized details, such as carrying out duties in courts or guarding prisoners or patients in hospitals and mental health facilities.
"Improved technology pertaining to body cameras is amazing," Skillestad comments.
All body camera data shall be retained for a minimum period of 90 days, the policy states. Certain data must be retained for six years, including the use of deadly force or other sufficient type of use of force and incident that result in an adversarial encounter.