Crystal Police Department to release first draft of body-worn camera policy

Opportunity for public feedback is Tuesday, May 16

By Laci Gagliano
Sun Post Newspapers

The Crystal Police Department will soon roll out a body-worn camera program, and has drafted its first round of policies for the program, which the city council approved in February. A pilot version of the program is set to begin once the department obtains its initial 10 pilot cameras and server, which officers will use over the course of the next year to test and evaluate the program and become familiar with operating the devices.

According to the policy, officers will be exempt from wearing the devices full-time during the pilot program but will eventually be required to do so once the full program is implemented. The policy states that the cameras’ primary function is to record evidence during officer encounters with citizens, thereby enhancing the safety of officers, providing evidence that may be used in court or investigations, and creating critique and training opportunities.

Chief of Police Stephanie Revering told the Sun Post in February that the department intends for the program to provide a two-way street for officer accountability to the public as well as protecting officers against accusations. She also mentioned that privacy was one of the main concerns the public expressed in citywide surveys regarding the cameras.

The policy addresses those concerns by defining the scope of the cameras’ use and the accessibility of footage. The draft lays out extensive guidelines for when officers will be required to activate recording, who has access to the data, what the data will specifically be used for and under what circumstances, and how long data recordings will be kept.

For instance, encounters defined in the policy as “adversarial,” which the department defines as an incident where “at least one person expresses anger, resentment, or hostility toward the other, or at least one person directs toward the other verbal conduct consisting of arguing, threatening, challenging, swearing, yelling, or shouting, and encounters in which a citizen demands to be recorded or initiates recording on his or her own,” are required to be recorded by the cameras, as are incidents that the officer believes have the potential to become adversarial.

Public access to the recordings is limited, except by requests of some subjects of the footage, or in cases of substantial bodily harm, death, or firearm discharge. General encounters with the public, such as medical responses, are not required to be recorded, although officers are granted their own discretion. Timeframes for footage recorded under various circumstances is also laid out in the policy, which states that at the end of any data’s required retention, the data will be destroyed unless extensions are requested.

Lieutenant Pete Underthun said the policy is posted on the city’s website for the public to review before the May 16 council meeting.

“We would like to let the residents of Crystal know about the program and give them a chance to read the draft policy,” Underthun said. “During the meeting there will be an opportunity for citizens to comment on the bodycam pilot program and the draft policy.”

Underthun said the initial program will begin after the department receives feedback from residents.

“After hearing from citizens, we hope to review our policy again and soon thereafter begin the pilot program,” he said.

“During the pilot program we will be testing and evaluating our equipment and policy in the workplace setting.”

Residents interested in reviewing the policy can go to crystalmn.gov/BodyCamPolicy.pdf.

Contact Laci Gagliano at [email protected]