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May 26, 2019

4/26/2019 10:50:00 AM
Lakes Area to use bodyworn cameras

Lakes Area Chief of Police Bill Schlumbohm attended a multi-day police chiefs’ conference in St. Cloud last week,  and the timing couldn’t have aligned any better for the upcoming introduction of bodyworn cameras in the Lakes Area Police Department.  

Chief Schlumbohm said alot of discussion and information over the course of the conference concentrated on bodyworn camera policy and experiences.  He was gratified to learn there are many other Minnesota departments heading in that direction. Even a one-officer small Minnesota town department was taking on this new technology.  

The Lakes Area Police Chief feels that every officer, someday,  everywhere, will be sporting a bodyworn video camera, creating a visual and audio recording of what law enforcement  deals with 24/7.

Bodyworn cameras were a natural progression for  Lakes Area P.D., explained Schlumbohm. The department was slated for replacing squad car “dash”cameras and the system through equipment provider Axon  now comes with bodyworn equipment.  The bodyworn camera carries the microphone (audio) for the squad cameras.  Lakes Area squads typically have a camera facing out the windshield, a camera covering the backseat and now the bodyworn camera.  All three link wirelessly.  

Lakes Area will own 13 cameras, assigned to uniformed patrol and School Resource Officers.  In the case of school recordings, parents will be allowed to view footage of their student or child who they serve as guardian to.

Access to digital images is a major issue in use of these oftentimes intrusive cameras.  They can be recording some peoples’ most intimate moments or catch some gruesome and personal scenes.  Schlumbohm said everyone has come to expect a squad car to have a camera and the scenes it records are on the street, in public.  Bodyworn cameras, however, go inside houses, go wherever the officer goes and as part of adopting the cameras, the public is required to have a chance to give feedback on privacy.  

The chief said the open comment process in effect now, helps,  “to take the temperature of the people we serve in Lakes Area” the cities of Lindstrom and Chisago City. The state legislature created steps to follow before bodyworn cameras get put into use, and public comment  is mandatory.

There are three types of data that police interact with on a regular basis, the chief explained,  private, public and confidential.  

Footage recorded by the bodyworn devices is “private” under law, which means only the subject recorded is allowed access.

It gets a case number and is time stamped and can be linked to other cases’ footage if need be.  Chief Schlumbohm said one criminal activity may be related to earlier incidents, and all the taped images can share a case number and be retrieved quite efficiently.

Rules call for the footage for a basic incident like a traffic stop to be retained for 90 days.  Criminal bodycam evidence is kept at least one year.
The development and refinement of “cloud” technology has allowed for managing quantities of digital footage.  Axon cloud services greatly simplify complicated storage and retrieval that not long ago, were big hurdles.  

The chief said the cloud system is checked and double-checked, and any access is logged automatically and by which agency. 

The regular public doesn’t get to see bodyworn camera footage.  

It’s viewed only by the officer, or if used in a trial possibly or the subject in the recorded call may view the footage.

Part of training in today’s world of law enforcement,  the chief said,  includes learning about brain behavior and how recall works.  The aim is to both improve factual recall of a traumatized victim, or for the officers to hone their own observation and memory skills.  

A bodyworn camera is an indisputable record of an actual incident and progression of events-- and there are no limits to usefulness.   

When asked about costs that come with adding bodyworn cameras to the department operations, plus a mandatory audit of the system process and department policy that must take place every two years, the chief said if this technology helps derail even one lawsuit, or enhances convicting  a dangerous person-- it’s worth it.  

The public comments are being encouraged starting now.  The Lakes Area Police Commission will be reviewing these at the regular May 8 meeting, at 6 p.m. at Lindstrom City Hall.

If you have concerns, suggestions or related issues please use bodycams@lakesareapd.com or mail written comments to Lindstrom City Hall/Police Dept.


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