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State Patrol rolls out body cams

Sgt Troy Christianson, State Patrol, MN, body cam, troopers, cameras
Sgt. Troy Christianson of the State Patrol displays the new body cam on the center of his chest that all troopers are now wearing across Minnesota. The statewide rollout of the cameras began in December and was completed two weeks ago. Staff photo by Rick Bussler
Rick Bussler, Publisher
“The footage clarity is amazing. It’s pretty high tech.”
-Sgt. Troy Christianson, MN State Patrol

Something else will be watching closely the next time you interact with a Minnesota state trooper.

The State Patrol is now fully equipped with body-worn cameras, which are mounted in the middle of the chests of all troopers. The statewide rollout of the project began in December and was completed on May 5.

Sgt. Troy Christianson finds the body cameras revolutionary in technology from when he started 24 years ago. First, there were no cameras followed by VHS tapes and DVD technology with in-squad camera systems and now all video goes directly into cloud storage.

“It’s good to have the new technology, and it’s simple— that’s even better yet,” Christianson said. “The cloud is perfect and we don’t have to deal with filing anything.”

During the project, the State Patrol installed 644 in-car camera systems and issued body-worn cameras to 613 sworn members of the patrol and 92 non-sworn members. Body cams have also been issued to commercial vehicle inspectors and capitol security officers.

In all, 705 body cameras and 1,349 camera systems are keeping an extra eye on Minnesotans. In 2021, the state legislature approved the body cams, which came with a price tag of nearly $7 million, according to Christianson.

As part of the process, all squads had to be retrofitted to make room for the new cameras. Christianson said it took four hours to rewire each squad.

Troopers are projected to record an average of 3,212 pieces of video evidence or 616 hours per day across the state. All the video will be uploaded to the cloud and stored for various lengths. For example, video from fatal vehicle crashes will be kept for 99 years, DWI cases for 20 years and non-enforcement contact for 13 months.

In the last month, troopers captured 96,380 pieces of video evidence for a total of 19,840 hours of video and 37,936 GB of data.

The body cameras can be activated in five ways. They include: activation of emergency lights, manual activation, rifle release in squad and any time the trooper takes the handgun or taser out of holster. Troopers will be required to video any law enforcement contact with the public, Christianson said.

“It works good for both sides,” Christianson said, noting the patrol doesn’t receive many citizen complaints against troopers. “The footage clarity is amazing. It’s pretty high tech,” he added.

Col. Matt Langer, chief of the patrol, said: “Although we’d like to think every state trooper is perfect, we are human beings just like everyone else. Capturing interactions on body-worn cameras will help hold everyone accountable.”

Christianson said all data collected by the patrol is considered private and can’t be obtained until the case is closed. However, in rare circumstances like officer-involved shootings the video can be released to “stop rumors and civil unrest,” he said, adding in those cases, “it’s important to get the true and accurate info out as soon as possible.”

There are 55 troopers serving the 11-county district across southeastern Minnesota.

Christianson has found all troopers are supportive of the new body cams.

“It’s good to have new technology,” he said. “It makes our jobs easier.”

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