MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Eight police officers have been killed in Baton Rouge and Dallas in the past two weeks following the police shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Baton Rouge police wear body cameras. Their own video could help piece together what unfolded on Sunday. In Minnesota, the governor signed a body camera bill into law in May. WCCO looked at how departments use them and what it means for the public.
Burnsville was the first police department in Minnesota to use body cameras, adopting them in 2010.
And several videos have been made public.
At least 40 departments across the state use body cameras, including Maplewood police.
“I think they will help with transparency, they will help some with accountability, they will help even with evidence collection and all these things are crucial,” Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell said.
Maplewood has five right now but will expand to the entire department later this year. Schnell was instrumental in the body camera bill signed earlier this year by the governor.
“There is compelling public interest in what’s happening,” Schnell said,
“The public itself doesn’t have as much access as they used to,” Matt Ehling with Minnesota Coalition on Government Information said.
The organization that pushes for government transparency wanted the law to be more open. Ehling said there are two ways video is public.
“The video has to document use of force by a police officer that would result in substantial bodily harm, the second would be it’s got to document use of a firearm, discharge of a firearm by a police officer in the course of their duty,” Ehling said.
While other video, like traffic stops, is restricted to the public, Schnell said all video is available.
“I think what’s most important is that the data that body cameras collect is not secret, it is data that is available to the subjects of the data,” Schnell said.
That means a person in a video can obtain it and then make that video public.
Ehling said there is a difference between body cameras and dash cam video. Dash cam video is still open to the public, and viewable by anyone.