By Melanie Stegner

The Pope County Commissioners met in regular session on Tuesday, October 5, to discuss and unanimously pass policy 402, the policy defining the guidelines for the use of body cameras – portable audio/video recording systems. 

The policy was written and will be maintained with regards to federal and state requirements by a firm called Lexipol. The firm is based in California and works to keep officers fresh on policies by quizzing them weekly instead of having them sign off on a one-time basis that they have read and understand a policy. 

Pope County’s policy closely reflects that of Douglas County and is very similar to all Minnesota agencies.

The new policy outlines the privacy expectations of the office-issued devices, the responsibility of the members using the devices, activation of the device, identification, preservation, and retention of recordings, appointing of a coordinator to oversee the use and care of the devices, and the prohibited use of the devices.

Body cameras are a recent addition to the tools that will soon be available to the officers of the Pope County sheriff’s department. The cameras have been purchased using money from the general fund. They will be worn on the officers’ chests and are integrated with the officer’s stationary vehicle camera, allowing for two views along with an audio recording of a traffic stop or civilian encounter. 

In most cases, the body camera will activate as soon as the flashing lights on the officer’s vehicle are turned on. “The camera can be activated with the push of a button as well if an officer is patrolling on foot, for example,” said Sheriff Tim Riley.

Recorded footage from each camera will be automatically downloaded to the server at the station when the officer comes into the vicinity of the department. At that time, the information will be held on the server for 90 days as required by state statute unless it is deemed pertinent to a court case, it will be held longer.

The recordings made to the office-issued devices at any time remain property of the office.