The Becker County Sheriff’s Office is moving forward with plans for body cameras for its 22 licensed officers, including Sheriff Todd Glander.
The department had no luck in landing a grant to help offset costs for the body cameras, but if the county board gives the OK, money to pay for the cameras will come from the sheriff office’s dedicated forfeiture funds from DWI enforcement, county Administrator Mike Brethorst said in an email.
“We’re seeking quotes now for the body cameras, so we do not have a number yet,” Brethorst added.
As a first step, the sheriff’s office is putting together proposed policies and procedures for officer body cameras, to be posted on the county’s website, and the public can provide feedback on the proposal up for the next few weeks. A public hearing on the proposal is expected to be held at the next regular county board meeting on Jan. 21.
“We want body cameras,” Glander said in an interview. “Our squad car video cameras only cover what happens in front of them. Body cameras go with us wherever we go -- private residences, businesses, wherever.”
Of course, that move into the private realm comes with privacy concerns, Chief Deputy Shane Richard said in an interview.
“In the event we went into somebody’s house or into a bar, we have to be able to redact out the faces of people there,” that aren’t involved in the police call, he said. “There’s the potential to redact a lot more stuff (to comply with) the Data Practices Act,” he said.
The county’s proposed body cam policy is about seven pages long, and includes some template language based on state statute, Richard said.
The body camera audio and video would be saved on a county server for various lengths of time, depending on the situation -- indefinitely for a homicide, up to 180 days in most other cases, Glander said.
“It’s another tool to help us do our job more effectively,” he said. “It protects citizens and officers.”
Ideally, the body cameras will synchronize with the squad car cameras, which turn on automatically when the emergency lights are activated. The data later downloads onto a wireless server when the officer arrives back at the sheriff’s office at the courthouse.
There is also a crash sensor that turns the cameras on, and they are always recording, so an officer can turn on his or her emergency lights to make a traffic stop and the cameras will automatically record the prior two minutes —- documenting the infraction that caused the officer to flip on the emergency lights in the first place.
After an event, the officer determines whether or not to preserve it in high-definition. The squad car video captures a front view, nearly 180 degrees on the new cameras, and also the back seat area where suspects ride.
But that video evidence stops now when an officer leaves the squad camera coverage area. Body cameras would fill in the missing documentation for a criminal case.
“It would just be kind of a continuation of the squad car cameras,” Richard said. “It will kind of mirror that, so it won’t be a big change for us in that way.” The officer turns off the body camera when the incident is over, he said.
Glander said he plans to meet with his officers later this month to talk about their concerns and responsibilities involving body cameras.
Richard said Tuesday, Jan. 7, that the office will be posting its draft policy on body cameras in the next day or so.
“People can read it and comment on it,” he said. “We want to know what the public thinks.”