Roseville PD gets closer to body cameras for all

Council member still has questions

As Roseville moves closer to implementing a police department-wide body camera program, one member of the city council still has questions about the need for such cameras.

At its Nov. 27 meeting, the council was set to accept an agreement with the City of St. Anthony regarding a federal grant for body camera funding. The agreement was part of the council’s consent agenda, which is a group of items that is typically passed en masse and without discussion.

The grant will fund a portion of the city’s costs for cameras, and according to police Chief Rick Mathwig, the Roseville Police Department is likely to buy body cameras for all its officers early next year. The rest of the money to cover the cost of cameras is in the city’s 2018 budget, which will be finalized this month.

Council member Tammy McGehee requested the grant agreement be pulled from the consent agenda, because she said the issue of police body cameras deserves more time and discussion. 

State law required cities to have policies regarding body cameras in place prior to the start of 2017, if cities planned to use them. In late 2016, the police department sought public comments and put out an online survey regarding its proposed body camera policy, with little response. 

As required by state law, the council held a public hearing on the body camera policy Oct. 24, 2016, though no one spoke during it, and the policy was enacted. The full policy can be found on the city’s website, www.cityofroseville.com.

Mathwig was at the Nov. 27 meeting and explained to council members the department has tested out various camera models, settling on a Panasonic model that can sync with officers’ squad car cameras. He also said it’s imperative for the city’s officers to be equipped with body cameras.

“The community expects this,” he said, “the community demands this.”

City Manager Pat Trudgeon said he fully agreed with Mathwig. McGehee pushed back.

“To me, the body cameras are not about protecting the citizens, and to me, I have not heard some great outcry that the citizens expect these,” she said, adding, “I just didn’t think that we had made, as a community or a council, this decision.”

McGehee asked what benefits body cameras would bring to the police department.

“There’s an increased transparency in law enforcement — we’re doing a good job and now we’re recording it,” Mathwig said, adding cameras also give people a chance to prove their case when they feel aggrieved, and that recordings can also help with police reports.

McGehee made a motion to table the agreement with St. Anthony, in order to allow for more time to mull body cameras — she said she thought the cameras were unnecessary — but the motion failed. The council then approved the grant agreement on a 4-1 vote.

 

Funding, silent 

public hearing

The agreement allows Roseville to accept $82,500 as a sub-recipient of the grant, which totals $123,000 and will help fund St. Anthony’s own police body camera program. 

Mathwig explained the Roseville Police Department helped St. Anthony apply for the grant, which is administered by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The estimated total cost of Roseville’s body camera program is $184,000; the non-grant funding will come out of the 2018 city budget’s capital improvement program fund.

In an interview after the Nov. 27 meeting, Mathwig said some nine officers are currently using the latest version of the Panasonic camera the department is set to purchase in bulk. He said department leadership has viewed footage from the cameras and they work well, though to his knowledge, no footage has been used in court.

Trudgeon said in an interview the city is moving ahead with its body camera program as planned, and no other public hearings on the matter are scheduled.

Typically, concerned Roseville residents show up to city council meetings when issues they’re interested in are to be discussed. For instance, at the same October 2016 meeting during which no one spoke for or against the body camera policy, residents lined up to passionately discuss a proposed city-contracted deer cull. 

Trudgeon said it’s difficult to interpret the lack of opinions at the time regarding the body camera policy. He said despite the city’s extensive outreach, many people aren’t aware of what happens at City Hall, though if people have strong opinions on a city matter, they usually show up.

“If there was a grave concern we would have had people come out,” he said.

At the Nov. 27 meeting, one resident spoke to say she was skeptical of the need for body cameras.

Trudgeon pointed out the body camera question will come before the council at least one more time, when the time comes to buy; the council approves all purchases that cost more than $5,000.


– Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here