Federal policies on controlled body cameras after filming

(TNS) – The shooting death of law enforcement Winston Boogie Smith Jr. has moved activists who were already calling for sweeping police reforms earlier this year and sparked a new wave of protests near the site of his death in Uptown Minneapolis.

But Smith’s death differed from many recent high-profile deadly police encounters in Minnesota and nationwide in one major way: There is no known video of the shooting.

Smith was shot and killed by members of a federal task force of the US Marshals Service that was not equipped with body cameras. The shooting was not captured by the on-board cameras of the patrol cars. It was also not recorded by the surveillance of the parking ramps. Unlike several major murderous police encounters, including the murder of George Floyd in 2020, no passerby caught the encounter with their cell phone cameras.

The Federal Task Force’s policy on body cameras came under scrutiny after Smith’s murder. Days after the shooting, three Minnesota law enforcement agencies suspended their participation in the Federal North Star Fugitive Task Force: Anoka, Hennepin and Ramsey County Sheriff’s Offices.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said Monday the Marshals Department contacted his office last week to discuss a camera policy. If sheriff’s office workers can wear body cameras, they will join the task force, he said.

“We need transparency and the public demands it,” he said. “But the devil is in the details.” We want to make sure we have access to and control the data. Some federal agencies do not want to give up control. This will be a key point of discussion. “

A spokesperson for Hennepin said the office is still not participating in the task force. Anoka County did not respond to a request for comment.

While there is no video of the shooting, Minneapolis police questioned Smith’s partner on a body-worn camera after the incidents. The video has not been made public.

Neither of the two task force members involved in Smith’s death will face criminal charges.

“The decision was not the right decision – I feel like they lack evidence,” said Capritieshay Rogers, who has 7-year-old daughter Jah’niyah Rogers with Smith.

U.S. officials have said that since February, they have been gradually introducing a policy allowing local law enforcement agencies to wear body cameras during federal task force operations. But Fletcher said the policy didn’t change until the day after Smith died on June 3.

On June 7, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco called on federal law enforcement officials to develop “individualized comprehensive policies” that require the wearing and activation of body cameras during planned operations or during operations. ‘execution of search or seizure warrants. The Justice Department said each policy assumes that records of encounters resulting in serious injury or death are “released as soon as possible.”

The department last month announced the launch of its new body-worn camera program requiring federal law enforcement to use body cameras “during pre-planned law enforcement operations.” The first phase of the program began in Phoenix and Detroit and the department said it was planning a “phased implementation” of body cameras “and was counting on Congress to secure the funding needed to equip agents across the board. national “body cameras.

“Law enforcement is most effective when there is accountability and trust between law enforcement and the community,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “This is why we have extended our body camera program to our federal agents, to promote transparency and trust, not only with the communities we serve and protect, but also among our state law enforcement partners. , local and tribal people who work alongside our federal agents every day.

As calls for the use of body cameras for federal law enforcement agencies have intensified this year, Minnesota is expanding the use of the technology for its state police departments.

The Legislative Assembly Public Safety Expenses Bill that passed this year allocated more than $ 600,000 over the next two years to equip officers employed by the State Criminal Apprehension Bureau body cameras. Officers working for the Department of Public Safety’s Alcoholism and Gambling Division will also begin to wear body cameras, and lawmakers have approved a $ 500,000 grant program to help local agencies d law enforcement who have not yet purchased body cameras to pay for them.

Fletcher said that across the country, law enforcement agencies are expected to have body camera footage of critical incidents. A law enforcement agency must be able to release footage in a timely manner, which should take 30 days, he said.

“Cases rarely require more investigation time, and most cases are concluded within 10 days,” he said.

© 2021 StarTribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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