Body cams: Senators pass regulation with no future

ST. PAUL -- Video from law enforcement officer body cameras apparently will remain public at least into next year, but the issue still generates passionate disputes.

ST. PAUL - Video from law enforcement officer body cameras apparently will remain public at least into next year, but the issue still generates passionate disputes.

“Body cameras have been proven to promote public safety,” Sen. Ron Latz, D-St. Louis Park, said Monday, before senators voted 47-14 to regulate body cam video.
The Latz legislation would allow much law enforcement video to remain private. However, it would be public if a recording is made in a public place, involves a police weapon or substantial injury and a subject in the video requests it be public.
In most cases, video must be kept between 90 days and a year.
“Today, by default, all of the data collected by any of these devices is public in that anyone can access the footage,” he said, but police want tighter control.
Even with Monday’s vote, which echoed one from a year ago, the legislation is not about to become law. The provision is not moving in the state House.
More than two-dozen cities are holding off buying body cams until the state approves regulations.
“This protects the privacy of the inside of your home, this protects the identities of victims,” Latz said.
Latz said his bill “goes a long way toward” making sure the public has access to video in which law enforcement officials act improperly.
“I question whether we are even ready to move into the body camera question at all because there are so many questions,” said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, a former long-time law enforcement officer.
One question he has is that officers may be distracted away from their duties by fiddling with the camera.
An attempt failed to allow people living in a home to order an officer to turn off a camera. Latz said the officer should have some say in when to turn a camera off, but in general his bill sets out when a camera should be operated.
Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, strongly objected to allowing officers to leave cameras running when they go into private homes. However, Latz said officers are in a home when they have warrants or are on an urgent call.
“They are not just walking down the street knocking on doors saying, ‘Hey, can I come in?’” Latz said.
However, Newman countered, there are times when police enter homes at other times, such as when an ambulance is called. He recalled an incident in which an elderly woman fell and hurt herself when she became tangled with her underwear, an embarrassing situation.
“I think she should have the ability to tell officers to turn that camera off,” Newman said.
Senators accepted a Sen. David Tomassoni, D-Chisholm, amendment that would allow officers to review video when writing a report.
“There could have been a lot of emotion involved and when emotion is involved, memory may not work as well as it should,” Tomassoni said.
Ingebrigtsen said he thinks it makes sense to review videos because they cannot always write a report immediately after the incident and video could help make reports more accurate.
But Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, D-Minneapolis, said the review gives an advantage to officers over minority communities like those he represents, where an adversarial relationship sometimes exists.

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