Public can complete a survey, speak during Oct. 6 council meeting
The Wayzata Police Department is preparing to begin a body-worn camera program and is asking for input from the public on the proposed policy.
According to the policy, the use of the body cameras is “intended to enhance the mission of the department by accurately capturing contacts between members of the department and the public.”
The proposed policy explains the intended use of the body cameras, or “portable recording systems” (PRS), which are defined as “a device worn by a peace officer that is capable of both video and audio recording of the officer’s activities and interactions with others or collecting digital multimedia evidence as part of an investigation.”
According to the policy, the department plans to adopt the use of the cameras to enhance accountability and public trust by preserving documentation of officer’s interactions with citizens; capturing digital audio-video evidence for criminal, civil and traffic-related court cases; and assisting officers with recalling details captured by the equipment that will help them accurately describe events when writing reports. The recording devices are also meant to be used as a training tool for officer safety and best practices in the Police Department and to enhance officer and public safety.
Under the plan, all officers would be required to wear their body camera while working in any uniformed assignment, which also applies to overtime assignments and uniformed off-duty employment in Wayzata. The police chief may designate certain functions as exempt from officers wearing a body camera, such as a funeral or ceremony.
The “general guidelines for recording” section of the policy states that “officers should activate the recorder any time they believe it would be appropriate or valuable to record an incident. At no time is an officer expected to jeopardize his or her safety in order to activate the PRS.”
The section goes on to explain that “officers shall activate their PRS when responding to all calls for service and during all law enforcement-related encounters and activities, including but not limited to pursuits, Terry stops of motorists and pedestrians, traffic stops, arrests, searches, suspect interviews and interrogations, and during any police/citizen contacts that become adversarial.”
Under Minnesota law, body camera recordings are considered public information when a recording documents the discharge of a firearm by a peace officer in the course of duty, other than for training or the killing of an animal that is sick, injured or dangerous; use of force by a peace officer that results in substantial bodily harm; a subject in the recording requests that it be made accessible to the public (subject to redaction); or documents a disciplinary action against a public employee.
The public can review a draft of the proposed policy in its entirety at wayzata.org/bodycams. Residents will also find a 15-question survey on the proposed policy. The deadline to respond is Monday, Oct. 12.
Residents can also receive a copy of the policy by calling the police department at 952-404-5340 or emailing wayzataPD@wayzata.org.
Another opportunity for the public to offer input will be during a public hearing on the policy at the Tuesday, Oct. 6, Wayzata City Council meeting. Because council meetings are being conducted virtually, residents are asked to submit comments before the meeting or attend the meeting via Zoom. To learn more about how to participate in the public hearing, visit wayzata.org/virtualpublicmeetings.
The input received will be used to shape a final version of the policy, which is modeled after the League of Minnesota Cities model policy and is similar to body camera policies across the metro and the state.
“If all goes as scheduled with equipment and training, we hope to have the body-worn cameras in use in mid-November,” Wayzata Police Chief Mike Risvold said.
The police chief said the program to outfit all officers with a body camera is expected to cost $11,700 annually on a five-year contract.
The South Lake Minnetonka Police Department, which serves Excelsior, Greenwood, Shorewood and Tonka Bay, approved a body-worn camera program in late 2018. The Plymouth Police Department began using body cameras in early 2019.
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