Police, Attorneys Talk Body Camera Pros and Cons

DPD Pushes State Lawmakers to Create Guidelines on Body Cam Video Clips

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Wednesday evening the pros and cons of police body cameras were unveiled by Duluth Police and legal professionals for the community.

The Duluth Citizen Review Board requested a briefing on current body camera laws, and how Duluth police are using them.

When it comes to moments captured through those cameras there are no solid laws on what’s public and what’s private.

Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay and Lt. Laura Marquardt teamed up with city attorney Gunnar Johnson to break down current laws, and explain how Duluth is pushing state lawmakers to make a change.

Police say it’s about creating a balance between public safety and individual privacy.

The problem is the use of body cameras is so new state lawmakers are having a hard time catching up.

Currently, every Duluth officer patrolling the streets wears a body camera, and with about 90 of them on scattered throughout city limits more than 200 videos are collected every day.

Police say about a third of the video is used for investigations and considered private.

The rest of it can be requested and released to essentially anyone who wants it.

Chief Ramsay believes video including children, inside people’s homes, or unveiling private information should be protected.

“Right now that data is public,” said Chief Ramsay. “When a police officer is dealing with them it’s accessible to anybody when the case is closed.”

Duluth police say so far the body cameras have helped speed up the amount of time it takes to solve crimes, and even prevented people from committing crime in front of an officer.

“When someone knows they’re being recorded or realizes they’re being recorded their behavior changes,” Chief Ramsay said.

On the other hand, the amount of video coming in is overwhelming and difficult to keep track of.

With no legislation in place, Duluth is leading the way in figuring out how to use and release the clips.

“The city of Duluth has said just because something’s hard doesn’t mean we’re not going to do it,” said Johnson. “We’re going to take on this challenge and we’re leaders in the state of Minnesota.”

The Duluth Police Department is the only department in Minnesota with full-time use of body cameras on all officers.

In December, state lawmakers denied Duluth’s request to keep some video private and told them to come back next legislative session.

Chief Gordon Ramsay and city officials didn’t like that answer.

Currently, DPD and city staff are working to get laws about releasing video passed so when other departments get them in the future there are strict guidelines to follow.

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