Univ. of Minn. Begins Campus Police Body Camera Trial Program
UMPD Lieutenant Erik Swanson says both officers and the public were interested in police body cameras when discussions started six months ago.
If feedback from the officers is favorable and university officials decide to adopt the body cameras, they will have to apply for long-term funding in 2018. The current funding, according to interim vice president of University Services Mike Berthelsen, is a one-time allocation from the university budget.
The university’s three campuses (Twin Cities, Duluth and Morris) are participating. Each campus, according to UMPD Chief Matt Clark, has its own unique security needs, and each is testing out a different brand. Axon, Motorola, Panasonic and WatchGuard are all in the running.
UMPD Lieutenant Erik Swanson says that although the cameras themselves are very similar, the supporting software can vary greatly in storage and accessibility.
Campus police vehicles are already furnished with similar cameras. In addition, the Twin Cities campus alone has 2,500 stationary security cameras, reports U.S. News. This program, says Clark, will help determine if they will need these additional cameras.
Clark, who was previously with the Minneapolis Police Department, says there was initially hesitance from the department to implement body cameras because previous legislation was not clear on the terms of retrieving the camera footage.
In August of 2016, changes to Chapter 171 classified police body camera footage as private, meaning anyone outside of the criminal investigation could not view it.
“As you can expect, we had a lot of people who were not suspects, who may be students, that we didn’t want internalized on video doing things that weren’t necessarily criminal, but didn’t paint them in the best light,” said Clark.
Once those changes were made, the department was comfortable with using body cameras.
A few recent studies have supported claims that body cameras positively affect both officers and civilians.
From March 2014 through February 2015, the Orlando Police Department ran a body camera pilot program in which 46 officers were randomly selected to wear the devices. The study compared them with the remaining 43 officers who did not wear the devices.
Among the 46 officers wearing body cameras, use-of-force incidents dropped 53 percent and civilian complaints against the officers dropped 65 percent.
In a similar study in Rialto, California, use-of-force incidents dropped 60 percent and civilian complaints dropped 88 percent.
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