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September 25, 2021

9/2/2021 1:18:00 PM
North Branch PD to add body-worn cameras

North Branch Council is assembling its 2022 budget, just like all the other local cities are doing now, and a new item is being penciled in:  body-worn cameras for law enforcement.  

The North Branch Police are the last of the local departments to incorporate the body-worn video and audio recording devices into everyday use. 
North Branch Chief Dan Meyer is hoping to win a Department of Justice grant for up to $26,000 to pay for the devices but for now, it could be a city cost.

The process to use bodyworn cameras in Minnesota calls for developing a policy  and holding a public hearing.  The hearing is at North Branch City Hall September 14.  
Public input has been gathered online for the last few weeks, at the city website through a survey, and the deadline for this is August 29.  Chief Meyer says most of the feedback has been supportive.  “I think the majority of the public expects their officers to have body-worn cameras,” he shared.

North Branch will acquire 13 Watchguard body-worn cameras and supporting equipment. The chief-down- to-patrol officers will be expected to wear one. North Branch has Watchguard squad car devices now, so the systems work together. For $49 per month a cloud based data storage service and evidence management can be subscribed to as well.
The draft policy is based on a model provided by the League of Minnesota Cities and adheres to state regulations that have come down from the legislature.  Policy considerations can involve length of time allowed for subjects to access the footage, retention of the  data overall, public versus non-public viewing, when officers are mandated to activate the camera, etc.  The designated office footage manager will be Carly Blomberg, Meyer added.  If you have policy issues you will want to attend the public hearing, or confer with the chief once bodyworn cameras are in use.

In a related development
The Chisago County Attorney is requesting a position in the staff roster  for managing video and audio bodyworn evidence being used in  prosecutions handled by the county.
Chisago County is unique in that criminal cases are not handled by the individual city legal counsels.  A special state law was enacted making the county attorney responsible for criminal cases.

With body-worn camera evidence being collected and filed electronically by Lakes Area Police, Wyoming Police, sheriff’s deputies and soon— North Branch Police, the data is piling up.

The County Board is considering using covid recovery monies to offset costs for a different staff position, and directing the savings to the new “media services technician” position in the County Attorney’s office.  Last week the County Board asked for more information before action.

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