Minneapolis police now required to keep body cameras on

Chris Jasurek
By Chris Jasurek
July 26, 2017US News
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Minneapolis police now required to keep body cameras on
A police body camera. Starting July 29, 2017, Minneapolis Police are required officers to turn on cameras anytime they are dispatched to a call or undertake any self-initiated activity. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

 

After a civilian was shot, Minneapolis is ordering police to keep body cams on.

The Minneapolis Police Department announced a clarification in its policy on body cameras on July 26. The new policy will require officers to turn on cameras anytime they are dispatched to a call or undertake any self-initiated activity. The policy takes effect on Saturday, July 29.

Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Interim Police Chief Medaria Arradondo held a press conference to announce the new regulations.

The changes come in response to the fatal shooting of civilian Justine Damond by a police officer on July 15. Neither the officer nor his partner had turned on their body cameras.

At the press conference the mayor said, “One of the toughest things for all of us in Minneapolis have had to face is that after all the time and money and energy that we put into making sure body cameras were in place we did not have body camera footage in an incident where it mattered a great deal.”

Arradondo followed up by saying, “What good is a camera if it’s not being used when it may be needed the most? From this day forward the Minneapolis Police Department wants to add strength to our expectations. Body-worn cameras must be on.”

The Trigger Incident

Justine Damond (née Justine Ruszczyk) was a 40-year-old Australian life coach and yoga teacher who planned to wed her fiancé, Don Damond, in August. The couple lived in southwest Minneapolis.

Justine Damond called 911 twice shortly before midnight on July 15 to report what she thought might be a sexual assault happening in an alley behind her home.

Officers Matthew Harrity and Mohamed Noor responded to the call in Harrity’s radio car. According to a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension search warrant, an unidentified woman possibly slapped the car, then a woman appeared outside officer Harrity’s window. Officer Noor fired past his partner, killing the woman, who turned out to be Damond.

Neither officer had his body camera active, despite responding to a reported crime. Both turned on their cameras after the shooting.

Current Minneapolis Police Department regulations require that officers activate cameras before “any contact involving criminal activity.” The rules also state that officers must activate cameras “prior to any use of force,” or “as soon as it is safe to do so” after any use of force.

Because of the vagueness of the wording, either officer could claim that he was not required to have his camera recording at the time of the incident. It could also be argued that an investigation of a suspected sexual assault could potentially involve “contact involving criminal activity” and the cameras should have been recording.

The new policy is designed to remove the vagueness.

The department is also planning to deploy gear, which would automatically turn on the cameras if the officers leave the squad car. That deployment is several months away and would not have mattered in this incident in any case.

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