Farmington is the latest Minnesota city to equip their officers with body cameras, and the first three weeks of the program have been a success, said Farmington PD police sergeant Gary Rutherford.
“These days, society is video-driven,” Rutherford said. “This technology is small enough and affordable enough, there was no reason not to go with it now. And it’s such a great evidence collection tool, I can’t imagine life without one now that I have it.”
Assault Victim Aid
While I’ve touched on the pros and cons of police body cameras in the past, Rutherford went into detail about another benefit of body cameras that I hadn’t thought about before. Rutherford said he expects the cameras will be extremely beneficial in situations of domestic abuse.
Rutherford said it’s not uncommon for victims of domestic violence to recant or alter their testimony a few days after the incident. By recording interactions either at the home or in the immediate aftermath of the incident, police will be able to capture a truer picture of what transpired. Sometimes victims want to protect their abuser for fear of change or retribution, but these recordings will act as tangible evidence for prosecutors and officers to point to and say, ‘This person is in danger and measures need to be taken against his/her abuser.’
Also, victims of domestic abuse sometimes attempt to minimize or justify the actions of their abuser, and as long as they camera footage is not too traumatic, officers can show the victim the recording to help show them that they are in danger and that these actions are not normal. These recordings will also be available to judges and juries to aid in rulings.
I know we’ve kind of been beating these police body camera stories into the ground of late, but I think the trend is only going to continue in the future. More departments are budgeting for body cameras, and statewide funding could become available if the Minneapolis pilot program is successful. I’ll certainly keep an eye on these stories in the coming weeks and months.
Related source: Pioneer Press
The excessive force suit was filed by Alicia Joneja, who claimed that two Minneapolis police officers assaulted her back in June 2012. According to Joneja, the incident began after she returned home to her apartment complex after a night out on the town with friends. It’s uncertain if she lost her keys at some point during the night, but Joneja returned to find that she was locked out of her apartment. Deciding she’d deal with the problem in the morning, Joneja went to sleep in the building’s foyer.
Her sleep was interrupted a short while later by officer Heather Sterzinger and officer Sundiata Bronson. According to Joneja, one of the officers began kneeing her in the stomach and pulling her hair. She also contends that an officer placed one of her hands in handcuffs and then dragged her across the floor, which led to a shoulder injury.
Authorities claimed that Joneja became combative when they tried to rouse her, but charges against the woman were later dropped. Joneja and her attorney were ready to move forward with the case before reaching an agreement with the city.
Per the terms of the settlement, the city will admit no guilt in the case.
Paul Edlund comments
The irony in the last line is fantastic. They are basically saying, “Is $50,000 enough for you to sign a piece of paper that says we didn’t do anything wrong, even though we wouldn’t be paying you right now if we knew we were innocent?”
Hopefully these cops are a few of the ones who will get body cameras as part of the pilot program, because odds are it this case could have been avoided if they knew their actions were on camera. On the flip side, if the cops were telling the truth, all they’d have to do is point to the tape.
Related source: Star Tribune