On for all calls: Minneapolis PD changes body-cam policy after Damond shooting

After a horrific police shooting of an unarmed woman made headlines in Minneapolis and around the world, the city’s government and police force have been under fire for the failure of the two officers involved to activate their body cams. Police chief Janeé Harteau resigned over that issue and questions about her leadership, and Mayor Betsy Hodges has become the target of protests as well. Harteau’s acting replacement held a presser with Hodges to announce that body cam activation will become mandatory, starting Saturday:

All Minneapolis Police officers will be required to activate their body-worn cameras on any call the respond to, any call they initiate and any traffic stop.

Acting police chief Medaria Arradondo announced the policy changes that were made under existing laws on Wednesday morning, alongside Mayor Betsy Hodges. That requirement will be implemented on Saturday, July 29. …

Right now, all Minneapolis Police Officers are equipped with body worn cameras and if an officer is caught with their body camera off when it should be on, they will be disciplined or potentially fired.

Officers will be able to look at the footage, but won’t have the ability to delete or alter video in any way.

“We equip them with a lot of equipment to go out there and serve our communities, but the one thing we cannot equip them with is the benefit of the doubt,” Arredondo said.

In two months, the question would have been moot. Minneapolis police had planned to integrate the body-cam systems with the siren and lights in the squad cars, which would have taken the decision out of the officers’ hands anyway. That doesn’t necessarily touch all potential situations, though, and the car that responded to Justine Damond’s call reportedly had its lights off at the time. That would make the policy change announced today doubly moot, but then again, Minneapolis is dealing with a public confidence crisis as well as conducting an investigation into the shooting. This is clearly designed to address the former rather than the latter.

The changes do broaden the mandatory manual activations too:

• Officers must record in more situations, including responding to any call — even in the squad car — and any contact involving even an allegation of a crime.

• Officers are no longer required to deactivate while assisting a motorist or protecting an accident scene.

• If recording in a non-mandatory situation, officer is required to tell people they are being recorded, unless it would create a safety hazard for the public or officer involved.

The public confidence crisis in policing has already become the top issue in the mayoral race. One challenger to Hodges wants police disarmed:

The most striking proposal came from Dehn, a state legislator who finished first in the Minneapolis DFL’s no-endorsement convention on July 8, beating out Hodges, Council Member Jacob Frey and Tom Hoch and attracting more than a third of the support from party insiders.

“We must divest resources, disarm officers, and dismantle the inherent violence of our criminal justice system,” Dehn said in a statement Friday.

He later elaborated on what sounded like a call to take guns from cops, adding he is not advocating against police officers having access to weapons when they need them.

“Officers don’t need to carry guns on their person all the time,” Dehn said Tuesday. “Currently, officers carry all sorts of assault weapons in their cars. So why can’t one of those weapons be the side arm? It’s important that we begin to have a conversation, and I would say that all things are on the table.”

That may sound extreme, but … forget it, Jake, it’s Minneapolis-town. It’s not just ideology, though; bear in mind that the Twin Cities is on its third major police shooting controversy in the past year or so, and whether justified or not, people want to see changes. A few months of disarmed police would produce demands for changes back, to be sure, but the MPD wants to avoid having to take that detour in policing policy … as should anyone who has to spend any time in Minneapolis.

Update: Initially I wrote that Dehn wanted the police entirely disarmed, but I meant to make it clear that this was his first position, which he later modified. I took out the word “entirely” rather than elaborate.