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A look into the body cam policy

Here are some highlights from the Alexandria Police Department's proposed policy regarding portable recording systems that are body-worn, such as body cameras.

The policy doesn't apply to mobile audio/video recordings or in-car camera systems. It also doesn't apply to interviews or interrogations, undercover operations, wiretaps or concealed listening devices, unless captured by a portable recording system.

To see the entire 10-page policy, go to the Alexandria Police Department's website, www.alexandriapolice.com.

Goals

The objectives of the devices are to:

• Enhance officer safety,

• Document statements and events during the course of an incident,

• Enhance the officer's ability to document and review statements and actions for internal reporting requirements and for courtroom preparation,

• Preserve audio and visual information for use in current and future investigations,

• Provide a tool for self-critique and field evaluation during officer training,

• Enhance public trust by preserving factual representations of officer-citizen interactions in the form of audio-video recordings,

• To assist with the defense of civil actions against officers and the city, and

• To assist with the training and evaluation of officers.

Officer responsibilities

Each uniformed member will be responsible for making sure that the recording device is in good working order. Uniformed members should wear the recorder in a conspicuous manner.

When using the device, officers will record their name, employee number and the current date and time at the beginning and end of the shift or other periods of use, including any instance when the recorder malfunctioned or the officer deactivated the recording. Officers must include the reason for the deactivation.

Activation of the audio/video recorder

The recorder must be activated in any of the following situations:

• All enforcement and investigative encounters, including but not limited to pursuits, traffic stops of motorists or pedestrians, arrests, suspect interviews and interrogations, and during any general citizen contacts that become adversarial.

• Traffic stops, such as traffic violations, stranded motorist assistance and all crime interdiction stops.

• Self-initiated activity in which a member would normally notify dispatch.

• Any other contact that becomes adversarial after the initial contact in a situation that would not otherwise require recording.

Officers should remain sensitive to the dignity of all individuals being recorded and exercise sound discretion to respect privacy by discontinuing recording whenever it reasonably appears to the officer that such privacy may outweigh any legitimate law enforcement interest.

Requests by members of the public to stop recording should be considered using that same criteria.

At no time is an officer expected to jeopardize his/her safety in order to activate a portable recorder or change the recording media. Officers must document in the narrative report the reason why the device wasn't activated.

Reviewing recordings

When preparing written reports, officers should review their recordings as a resource. However, officers must not retain personal copies of the recordings. Officers shouldn't use the fact that a recording was made as a reason to write a less detailed report.

Keeping recordings

All recordings must be retained for a minimum of 180 days.

Data documenting the discharge of a firearm by an officer in the course of duty must be maintained for at least one year.

Some recordings must be kept for six years, including: Data that documents the use of deadly force or force of a sufficient type or degree to require supervisory review; and data documenting circumstances that lead to a formal complaint against an officer.

Public access to recordings

Data obtained from recording devices is presumed to be private, including data about people, businesses and other entities.

Data that is collected as part of an active criminal investigation is confidential, which takes precedence over "private" data listed above.

The following data is public:

• Data documenting the discharge of a firearm by an officer in the course of duty.

• Data that documents the use of force by an officer that results in substantial bodily harm.

• Data that is requested to be made public (subject to redaction). Data on anyone, other than a police officer, who has not consented to the public release must be redacted. Also, any data on undercover officers must be redacted.

• Data that documents the final disposition of a disciplinary action against a public employee.

The public or the media who are seeking access to a recording will be referred to a police department employee who is designated as a responsible authority. He or she will process the request in accordance with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act and other laws.

Officer access to recordings

No officers will have access to the recorded data except for legitimate law enforcement or data administration purposes.

With some exceptions, officers may review video footage of an incident in which they were involved prior to preparing a report, giving a statement or providing testimony about the incident. Officers must document their reasons for accessing the data at the time of each access.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

(320) 763-1236
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