County board to consider purchase of body cameras for deputies

Published 10:06 pm Friday, August 31, 2018

The Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office hopes to purchase 14 body cameras by the end of this year.

The cameras — expected to be smaller than a bank card — will cost a budgeted $36,157 and be placed on the chests of all Sheriff’s Office road staff and sergeants.

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The Freeborn County Board of Commissioners is expected to address the request Tuesday.

Kurt Freitag

Sheriff Kurt Freitag said the cameras, by showing video of crime scenes, will be expected to prove cases or resolve deputy conduct complaints.

He said data practice state statutes allow the Sheriff’s Office to protect video showing the inside of homes, juveniles, sexual assault victims and other information, which would be redacted before videos are released.

“We’ve seen some changes with the laws governing data practices, and I like where the verbiage is at now where just about everything is initially presumed protected, and there is of course circumstances that would make it public,” Freitag said. “… A vast majority of the data is not going to be releasable to the public initially. If the video is part of a criminal investigation, and once the investigation or the crime has concluded with a finding of guilty, not guilty … once the investigation is done, then it could be releasable.”

The cameras are expected to be provided by Watchguard, the same company that provides in-car cameras for the Sheriff’s Office. Data retrieved from the cameras will be transferred to the server in the Freeborn County Law Enforcement Center immediately after officers return to the parking lot.

“This will just be something more for us to present in court,” Freitag said. “A majority of what we do is outside the car. Traffic stops (aren’t) a majority of what we do. So when we go to domestics, when we go to bar fights, things that happen spontaneously in front of us, we’ll have a better opportunity of catching that video.”

Freitag said the Sheriff’s Office does not plan to purchase body cameras because of a lack of trust between the public and local officers, adding he believes the relationship is more tumultuous in larger cities.

“Here in Freeborn County and even in surrounding counties … I think we have a pretty good level of trust with the people in our county and we have a level of transparency that I think they appreciate,” he said. “We have a Sheriff’s Office that they — I believe people, most people know that they can come right to us if they have a question. 

J.D. Carlson

“If we can help them, we are going to help them. If we can’t help them, we’ll steer them in the right direction, and that’s something that I’ve worked pretty hard on since I took office.”

Albert Lea Director of Public Safety J.D. Carlson said Albert Lea Lt. Darin Palmer, Deputy Chief of Police Darren Hanson and Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mitch Hagen have partnered to speak with vendors about the capability of purchasing cameras.

“It’s absolutely a joint venture,” Carlson said.

To Carlson, by buying body cameras, Albert Lea police would be transparent to the community and document reports for evidence purposes. The purchase has been in the city’s capital improvement plan for a couple years.

Police purchase of body cameras would need to be approved by the Albert Lea City Council.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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