Should police be required to wear cameras?

Spikes on the chart are due to three large payouts: In 2007 Minneapolis paid Officer Duy Ngo $4.5 million after he was shot and seriously wounded by another officer a few years earlier; in 2011, the mother of Dominic Felder received $2.1 million after a jury found the city liable in a wrongful death lawsuit; in 2013, the family of David Smith was paid $3,075,000. Smith died after being subdued by officers in 2010. Since 2006, the city has prevailed in 98 officer conduct lawsuits, losing two. (MPR Graphic/Brandt Williams)

“In a bid to reduce instances of officer misconduct and help the Minneapolis Police Department defeat frivolous brutality complaints and lawsuits, city officials are considering whether to issue wearable cameras to police officers,” writes MPR News reporter Brandt Williams.

The city has paid more than $20 million to resolve misconduct lawsuits and claims during the last decade. With that in mind, several Minneapolis City Council members announced Thursday that are ready to fund a $25,000 pilot project that would pay for compact cameras that 25 officers could clip on a pair of sunglasses or a lapel.

Police Chief Janee Harteau was not notified about the announcement, but police spokeswoman Cyndi Barrington said the department is not yet ready to go forward with a trial.

However, last month Harteau told members of the council’s budget committee that she has talked with chiefs in other departments that use body cameras.

“If we do this — and I almost want to say when we do this instead of if we do this — we want to be successful,” Harteau said.

Today’s Question: Should police be required to wear cameras?

  • Gary F

    Having done a drive along about ten years ago with the St Paul police, I have a different perspective.

    The utter lack of disrespect the officers get from many in our city just blew me away. Maybe not criminal, but the taunting, smart ass remarks, lack of cooperation, amazed me on summer night in July I rode along. When something goes bad, we only see the cell phone video of when it starts to get ugly, not the run up before the ugly event happens.

    Yes, cops have a tough job and have to make tough decisions in high pressure situations. Yes, there are some who probably are bad, as with any other profession, problem is their profession has power.

    Not sure yet legally if its a good idea or not. I just know the public should see the videos of day to day business of the cops and the disrespect they get from certain groups, and the public would be appalled.

    • Ross Chavez

      That’s an excellent point. What may initially be perceived to be misconduct or brutality can often be proven otherwise when video captures the call from beginning to end. The public has no idea what those of us in public safety deal with everyday (fire and EMS included).

    • Jim G

      My cousin is married to a Sargent on the St. Paul Police Department. His experiences showed me that disrespect of all public servants; teachers, policemen, county workers, etc. is common and pervasive as you describe. These groups that you mention live in conditions that marginalize futures. These same groups are the sending kids into the schools with needs that must be addressed so that they will have an economic future and not view the policeman as an oppressor.

    • david

      The white public would be appalled. Everyone else would for the most part think that’s what you get for being on the wrong side of history for hundreds of years. Respect needs to be earned, and given to be got. Take a ride along with a black man and see how much respect is given to him.

      • Ross Chavez

        Your perception that black officers receive more respect from non-whites is not true at all, and I speak from experience.

        • david

          I wasn’t talking about officers but citizens.

      • Pearly

        Driving while black?

        • david

          Yes. Jim Crow is alive and well, but instead of a whites only sign its been replaced with barbaric zero tolerance rules, mandatory minimum sentences, disenfranchising voter I’d law, etc. The very fact that even though there are 5 times as many white drug users in the country, if you are black you are 10 times more likely to serve prison time for the same offence speaks volumes. And now can you go a day without hearing some teabag blaming poor people for the middle class white man’s problems? There is a lot of bs going on in this country that is only serving to make things worse then better, and the biggest is blatant and willful ignorance.

          • PaulJ

            The victims of Jim Crow in the 1930′s would probably say current environment is qualitatively different.

          • Pearly

            I wish I was black. :(

          • Fred Garvin

            “And now can you go a day without hearing some teabag blaming poor people for the middle class white man’s problems? ”
            4 days have passed since you posted that–can you provide ONE example of what you are referring to?

      • Fred Garvin

        Agreed.
        Take a ride with a black man and see how much respect is given to him by…

        other blacks.

  • Ross Chavez

    Cameras are the wave of the future for not only police, but EMS as well. While they will save cities millions of dollars by squashing frivolous and fabricated complaints, they will also provide opportunities to enhance training through call review, identify areas in need of improved processes or policies, and contribute to better quality assurance and quality improvement. Bottom line, they will hold everyone accountable, on both sides of the badge. If you’re afraid of a camera, then you probably aren’t doing your job right. I don’t think they city will have the time or resources to pour over every second of video and this won’t result in a significant rise in officer discipline.

  • david

    Seems to be the way things are going. I just hope that it goes both ways and not only absolves officers of fabricated complaints, but as evidence against officers that deserve it.

  • Jim G

    I used to have a poster in my classroom that asked an interesting question:

    What kind of person are you when no one is watching?

    Maybe cameras can serve as a conscience for people who haven’t developed one yet.

  • Hugh Shakeshaft

    I’d rather see the money go to a tech company that makes cameras and handles video data than lawyers.

  • JQP

    You ever want to piss someone off … tell them what they just did was captured on camera. :-)

    If the police force is going to do this … I think it has to be all at once. There is no question about the equipment if other departments are doing it, there is no question about the way police use it, there is no question about the legality … so … it would be inconsistent for the public not to know that every officer is observing them the same way – with video.

  • PaulJ

    Or have all aural monitored real time by a lawyer; that’d cool the hanky-panky by all sides.

  • Marc

    Using dashboard cameras has worked well in many jurisdictions, revealing both citizen and police misconduct. Body cameras seem like a natural progression. Transparency and documentation are positive values which body cameras would enhance.