Minneapolis police chief tightens officer body camera policy
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minneapolis police officers will be required to have their body cameras on when they respond to all calls, as well as in certain other situations, the acting police chief announced Wednesday amid the investigation into an officer's fatal shooting of an Australian woman who called 911 for help.
The tighter policy will become effective Saturday, Acting Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said at a news conference. Officers who violate the policy could face discipline ranging from one-day suspensions to firing, he said.
"Many of our officers are using their cameras a lot, and as they're intended to be used," he said. "But there are some officers, quite frankly, that are not using them nearly enough."
Justine Damond, a 40-year-old spiritual teacher and bride-to-be, was shot by Officer Mohamed Noor after she called 911 on July 15 to report hearing a possible sexual assault behind her home. Noor's partner, Officer Matthew Harrity, told investigators he was startled by a loud noise right before Damond approached their police SUV. Noor, who was in the passenger seat, shot Damond through the driver-side window.
Neither officer's body camera was on at the time and there was no dashcam video, either.
Mayor Betsy Hodges expressed frustration at the news conference that despite all the time, money and energy the city has put into deploying body cameras, "we did not have body camera footage in an incident where it mattered a great deal."
Former police Chief Janee Harteau said before she resigned at the mayor's request last week that the officers' cameras should have been on.
The police department had been reviewing its body camera policy even before Damond was killed.
Minneapolis launched a body camera pilot project in November 2014, just months after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Minnesota's largest city began to roll out the technology throughout the department last summer and the cameras have been deployed department-wide for about eight months.
The previous policy required officers to turn on their cameras in more than a dozen situations, including for a traffic stop, search of a person or building, any contact involving criminal activity and before the use of force.
The amended policy gives officers less leeway. It says they should activate their cameras immediately upon being dispatched to a call, when self-initiating a call such as a traffic stop, before taking any law enforcement action, before making investigatory contacts, when any situation becomes adversarial, and before assisting citizens except for providing basic advice such as directions. It says cameras must be activated in any use of force situation, if not beforehand then as soon as it's safe.
Data from March released by the Minneapolis Police Department and published by television station KSTP show that officers wearing body cameras there recorded a little less than 20 minutes of footage for every eight-hour shift. Criminal justice experts said that amount of time seemed low.
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