New Brighton officers could have body-worn cameras by spring

At a New Brighton City Council meeting on Jan. 8, no speakers opposed the use of officer body-worn cameras.

No speakers voiced support for it, either.

A public hearing set by the council attracted no comments, and the technology will soon be out with officers on the streets. 

The city has been working on the issue for a couple years now, first at the public safety commission and later at the council level. New Brighton Director of Public Safety Tony Paetznick said that body-worn cameras have support both in the community and among his officers. The latter group, he said, will be able to improve recordkeeping with the use of the cameras. 

“We see it truly as an evidentiary tool to provide a more wholistic data package to go along with reports,” he said.

The camera systems will be authorized for 30 New Brighton officers, school resource officers and non-sworn officers. A quote sheet from Baycom, the body camera vendor out of Green Bay, put the cost of equipment, software and support at around $52,000.

The city council has yet to give the final nod, but Paetznick said that the public hearing was among the final necessary steps toward implementation.

New Brighton has plenty of company when it comes to the use of body-worn cameras.

One of the most recent adopters is the St. Anthony Police Department. Chief Jon Mangseth said that they put the cameras out in the field on Nov. 9 through a shared-resources deal with Roseville.

Mangseth said things have gone smoothly through training, as system glitches have typically come from officers getting used to new policies.

“We just feel it will be a great tool, not only for officers’ investigative and report-writing functions but also in terms of transparency,” he said.

The Inver Grove Heights Police Department deployed body-worn cameras in mid-December. Deputy Chief Sean Folmer said that the biggest headache came from launching three camera systems at once. In addition to body-worn cameras, the department outfitted itself with interview room and vehicle fleet cameras. All require training to use the equipment and software, as well as policies governing data storage and privacy out in the field.

Otherwise, Folmer said the launch went smoothly.

“It’s come in handy with a few things, and it’s certainly a great recollection tool for officers writing reports,” he said.

Paetznick said that the 2016 Minnesota Legislature’s body-worn camera law set the framework for departments to implement the systems. Following that law, a 2016 Obama Administration report on 21st-century policing, and national attention about law enforcement tactics in the wake of police-shooting tragedies, New Brighton and cities across the country picked up the trail toward body-worn cameras.

“When you look at the number of cities that have added in the last couple of years, it’s kind of become the norm in law enforcement,” Paetznick said.

He expects officers to start using the cameras sometime in the spring, pending final city council approval.

 

–Matt Hudson can be reached at mhudson@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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