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Smile, you're on camera

Celeste Beam | Echo Press

Smile and say cheese; you might be on camera - if you happen to get pulled over by one of Alexandria's finest.

The Alexandria Police Department recently received a grant worth $16,419 to purchase four in-car cameras for its squad cars.

Last week, 620 in-car cameras were awarded to 134 Minnesota law enforcement agencies, including not only the Alexandria Police Department, but also the Osakis Police Department and the Parkers Prairie Police Department. Both of those departments will each receive one camera.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced that the cameras were provided to law enforcement agencies around the state as a result of $2.9 million in federal funds administered by the DPS Office of Traffic Safety.

The cameras were distributed to agencies that applied for the technology tool. Of the awarded agencies, 42 percent had no previous in-car cameras among their fleet, according to DPS.

Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels noted that Alexandria was one of the 42 percent. He said this is the first time his squads cars will have cameras.

Wyffels went before the Alexandria City Council Monday night to get approval for not only the four free cameras through the grant, but also three more. Having seven cameras would fulfill the in-car camera project, noted Wyffels.

The chief noted that the camera project has been in the budget for the last two years, but that it kept getting moved forward. The amount budgeted in 2010 was $25,000, he noted, adding that in 2011, the budget for the project was set at $45,000.

He proposed to the council to accept the four free cameras, at the estimated value of $16,420, and then purchase three more in-car cameras along with all the necessary equipment and accessories for all seven cameras for a total of $24,829.

"This is a few bucks less than the 2010 budget amount anyway and we wouldn't need to spend anything next year on cameras at all," Wyffels noted.

The council approved the chief's request and the cameras should be up and running in seven squad cars before the first of the year.

The cameras work like a digital video recorder (DVR) and are always on, constantly recording images onto a hard drive, Wyffels explained. They can be especially useful for recording the moments leading up to a crash.

A camera in a Stearns County deputy's car recorded a shooting after a standoff on I-94 involving Alexandria police officers in May 2007, Wyffels said. The footage showed the officers' actions were appropriate.

The cameras, the chief said, "protect officers, protect citizens, help for evidence and tell the story."

Michael Campion, DPS commissioner, noted that, "The cameras are a vital tool for law enforcement and every officer should have this technology in their vehicle."

Campion said the goal of the in-car cameras is to provide a way to promote officer safety and enhance the public trust by preserving objective, factual representations of officer-citizen interactions. He added that cameras also provide non-disputable evidentiary information.

The digital cameras streamline content output through a wireless download to a server or laptop in the squad car or to a flashcard or via DVD.Story here.


The Minnesota Department of Public Safety cites in-car cameras are

important because they:

• Record an unbiased and accurate version of traffic enforcement

action/public contact.

• Promote positive officer behavior and compliance with departmental policies and procedures.

• Assist in the apprehension of

suspects when an officer is injured.

• Assist in the investigation of

alleged conduct violations/personnel complaints.

• Promote positive citizen response during contact with law enforcement officers.

• Aid the agency in evaluating

performance and effectiveness

of enforcement policies and