WORTHINGTON — A draft of a new Nobles County policy went public last week that would initiate body-worn cameras for uniformed Nobles County deputy sheriffs on patrol, and Sheriff Kent Wilkening says he hopes the proposal is received positively when he takes it to the county board next week.

The Nobles County Sheriff's Office first looked at implementing body-worn cameras several years ago, Wilkening explained, but when he learned that the state would soon be changing the regulations regarding the cameras, he decided to wait until those decisions were made.

Since then, the Minnesota state legislature has passed a statute that requires each law enforcement agency to write a policy regarding body-worn cameras, then allow time for public comment and host a public hearing before enacting the policy.

Wilkening has a policy in the draft stage posted to the sheriff's department website, and the public is invited to read it and offer comments until 4 p.m. Jan. 18. The next morning at the regular Nobles County Board meeting, commissioners will have a public hearing on the proposed policy, after which they will vote on whether or not to authorize the use of body-worn cameras.

"This is one of the things that deputies have asked for," Wilkening explained. His officers feel that body-worn cameras would mean more accurate records of arrests and other encounters with civilians.

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"That protects the person they're dealing with as well as themselves," he said. If there are complaints of maltreatment in the future, body camera footage could be reviewed to make a judgement about the deputy's conduct.

"We're anxious to get this going," Wilkening said. "This has been a long time coming, and it will be another tool in the toolbox."

Comments submitted by U.S. Mail should be mailed to: Nobles County Sheriff’s Office, RE: Body-Worn Camera Policy Comments, 1530 Airport Road, Worthington 56187. They may also be submitted by email to kwilkening@co.nobles.mn.us.