New Brighton considers police body-worn cameras


An August survey put out by the City of New Brighton and its department of public safety found strong public support for the city’s police officers to wear body-worn cameras. The city’s Public Safety Commission is set to discuss body cameras next month, and the commission’s findings will be sent on to the city council. file photo

Strapping body-worn cameras to police officers has been contemplated, studied and debated by many. Minneapolis is just one of hundreds of cities around the nation — from Alaska to Florida — that has already implemented such a program. New Brighton might not be far behind. 

While cost and other sometimes complex considerations have yet to be worked out by the City of New Brighton and its department of public safety, the agency itself has moved forward with gauging interest in enacting a camera program.

At the beginning of August, the department sent out a survey to residents asking, “What are your opinions about police body-worn cameras in this community?”

According to Tony Paetznick, director of public safety, 510 residents responded to the department’s inquiry.  

Paetznick said 87 percent of the survey participants were in favor of cameras; 10 percent were undecided. 

“Only 17 [people] stated that they did not support the implementation of such a program,” he said. 

With that, the topic will go to the Public Safety Commission, Paetznick explained. 

“[The commission] is scheduled to further discuss this topic at their meeting in September.” He added that an update on the discussion and the commission’s findings will likely be brought to the city council during a work session later that same month. 

While there is opposition to officers wearing cameras, mostly due to the question of how such policies can co-exist with privacy laws, many see the cameras as a move to strengthen police accountability and transparency. 

Local activists in favor of having officers wear cameras have said such footage would have been key in helping better interpret the shooting death of Philando Castile at the hands of a St. Anthony police officer in Falcon Heights on July 6, 2016. 

More recently, on July 15 of this year, Justine Damond was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer after she had dialed 911 to report a possible sexual assault in the alley near her home. 

Though they were wearing cameras, neither of the two responding officers had activated them in time to capture the shooting or what happened in the moments just prior to the shooting.

Damond’s death directly led to the resignation of Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau, as well as camera activation policy changes. 

For about a year, Roseville has tested body cameras from different manufacturers. Roseville police Lt. Lorne Rosand said a group of officers wears cameras everyday, though, not every officer wears one yet. He said the department may have funding in place to buy enough cameras for the entire force as early as this fall.

As for St. Anthony, whether or not its police department will purchase and utilize body-worn cameras is still an ongoing dialogue.

As it stands, the department has no policy requiring the cameras, however, last October, the St. Anthony City Council formed a group called the Tri-City Work Group, partnering with Lauderdale and Falcon Heights. Both cities contract for police services from the St. Anthony Police Department, though Falcon Heights’ contract ends at the end of the year.

The group, consisting of resident volunteers and city officials, has been discussing policies regarding the possible implementation of body cameras for the department’s officers. 

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815


 

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