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May 26, 2019

5/16/2019 2:03:00 PM
Lakes Area Police bodyworn cameras clear public comment phase

The Lakes Area Police Commission-- hearing no concerns from the public--voted unanimously last week to authorize the police department to continue  its bodyworn camera use.  

The announcement of the pending routine use of cameras went out to the public about a month ago, and the commission (AnnMarie Brink sitting in as alternate for Kevin Stenson) heard there were few concerns during an open feedback period on policy and operations of the devices.  

The public was also invited to speak at the regular police commission meeting May 8 and one person had just one question.

Lakes Area Police Chief Bill Schlumbohm commented that cameras have been part of law enforcement for 10 years, and most people he spoke with (story in Press April 25) felt it was only a matter of time before Lakes Area adopted them.  

“Most people have an understanding of what they are,” he added.

Commission member Jeremy Dresel asked about turning the camera on and off and how that will be managed.

The Lakes Area model of bodyworn cameras helps simplify questions about the activation.  

The chief said Lakes Area bodyworn cameras are designed to be automatically activated when emergency lights are used on the patrol vehicle, if the speed of the vehicle exceeds 80 miles an hour, and should  a firearm be unholstered.  The bodyworn units are linked to the two squad vehicle cameras and the camera on the bodywon uniform-mounted camera picks-up the audio.

With last week’s vote of confidence from the commission, the next step, according to the chief, will be getting on the same page with school district officials as to exactly what to expect when Chisago Lakes School Resource Officers utilize the devices.

 The chief explained, “We need to get a common understanding from everyone” and follow both state law and school district regulations. Schlumbohm also said the countywide SWAT operations policy and practices will also need to dovetail with Lakes Area officers wearing bodtworn cameras.

The comprehensive system that comes with the digital video recording of the bodyworn units includes capabilities that will improve the sharing of  evidentiary materials and storage, Schlumbohm added.  The system can electronically file and send  photos and images between the county prosecutor’s team and the police department.  At this time certain pieces of the investigative files need to be hand-delivered to be available to the courts.   

A major pending matter was resolved: the countywide emergency radio network contract,  effective only through 2019, was accepted unanimously.   

Wording revisions have appeased many of Lakes Area department concerns, said Schlumbohm.  The chief explained that the county has ceded control over the equipment.

Member/subscribers to the emergency matrix in Chisago County now are able to use their own hardware, as long as it’s compatible and not degrading the system.  

“This is a sea change” in the county’s original attitude.  “It’s by no means perfect,” the chief said of the interim contract, but it’s on its way.  Having the ability to select their own equipment means subscribers can budget better and be responsible for their own expenditures.

Other departments and fire fighting organizations covered under the interim radio agreement have other concerns, Schlumbohm acknowledged.  

But for Lakes Area P.D.-- being able to use equipment of its choosing was a major item.  

There is a committee working to negotiate terms for a more permanent agreement with the county.  Lindstrom City Attorney Amy Schutt is overseeing the process for incorporating contract requests for non-county radio matrix members.

~ The police commission also accepted a $400 grant from AAA’s traffic safety program, which  awarded a limited number of grants in Minnesota.

Lakes Area Police Officer Connor Quimby was successful in writing the grant request and was thanked by the commission for his efforts.  

He plans to use the funds for the summer Safety Camp and Bike Rodeo events.   

The grant funds were presented by AAA affiliate Empire Insurance Group.

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