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Body camera usage by police up significantly, new survey says

MINNEAPOLIS — A new survey of law enforcement agencies throughout Minnesota shows the use of body cameras has nearly doubled in the last five years, but for smaller police departments equipping officers with the technology is financially out of reach.

The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association surveyed its members to get a sense of how many agencies statewide are using body cameras or are considering using them. The association includes more than 300 law enforcement agencies and about 150 command staff members from both rural and urban departments.

About two-thirds of law enforcement officials who responded to the survey cite “lack of funding” as one of the main reasons why their departments don’t have body cameras.

The group’s executive director Jeff Potts for smaller agencies, it’s a financial challenge.

“They’re very expensive. Not only purchasing the camera, you kind of pay for the data storage. There’s a law, part of the Minnesota body camera law requires an annual audit and those audits are not inexpensive. Those departments that have not started a body camera program,” Potts said.

Potts said there is a noticeable shift in the attitudes toward body cameras being worn by police, with 90 percent of participants in favor of the equipment as a useful tool for gathering evidence, complaint resolution and building transparency with the public.

Transparency and accountability are crucial to building public trust in law enforcement, said Pat Nelson, Criminal Justice department chairman at Minnesota State University, Mankato which is home to the state’s largest four-year law enforcement training program.