(Maplewood, MN)

Some officers have an extra set of eyes on them as multiple cities in Minnesota are implementing trial runs of police body cameras. Maplewood is one of the cities participating.  Police Chief Paul Schnell tells Alpha News why, stating,  “We know now that often times, as we’ve seen in the news, all over the Nation, that officers are being recorded. This provides the officer’s vantage point in that encounter, number one, and number two, it does provide mechanisms for accountability”

Senator Ron Latz, who chairs the Senate’s judiciary committee, tells Alpha News the issue is between two competing interests – those who want, “the public having access to certain information” and those who have, “an interest in the victims having privacy and having control over what happens to the videos.”

Chief Schnell says body cameras capture all police calls, not only cases where officers use force. He says a majority of what they do involves routine calls for the elderly or more sensitive cases involving domestic and mental health issues, going on to say, “…and those are things that we think need to be protected, in addition to the fact that officers are inside people’s public homes, and if that became publicly available anyone could broadcast that at any time.”

Law enforcement officials testified at the State legislature during its last session, expressing their concern over the privacy of the people in the footage. Senator Latz says the legislation they advanced in the Senate “struck a really good balance of all the competing interests” and that while the bill would make a majority of the data private, it would give the option for the subjects involved to make the data public if they so desired.  The bill would also make the data with instances of police force more accessible.

Senator Latz says the bill “didn’t even receive a committee hearing in the House”, but that House members have committed to him that they will hold hearings on this issue next legislative session.

Chief Schnell says in the  interim he is filing an application to the Commissioner of Administration for a temporary classification of data to make all current body camera footage private.

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Julia Erynn