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Opinion: Cities and Counties Should Invest in Body Cams

If used properly, a body camera when assigned to police officers does not take sides, and therefore it draws a distinction between the type of competing stories that can often muddy a court case.

(TNS) — The city of Mankato has taken another step in a positive direction in public safety reform by proposing to purchase body cameras for its officers.

The Mankato City Council in a work session Monday heard a proposal to equip the city's police force with body cameras at a cost of $150,000 to $200,000 a year. It would be money well spent and bring Mankato policing to a higher level of public service and technological readiness.

The events of the last year with the police killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright have put an intense focus on the use of body cameras. The undeniable conclusion has been that the use of body cameras helps bring about justice. Body camera video gives a fair and accurate picture of the essence of a police action.

Body cameras can benefit officers against unwarranted charges of police brutality. They can clearly show suspects threating officers by reaching for their weapons or taking other life-threatening actions. If used properly, a body camera doesn't take sides, and therefore draws a distinction between competing stories that can often muddy a court case.

Mankato Director of Public Safety Amy Vokal has proceeded methodically on the body camera proposal and gathered information from experts on the use of the cameras. She also will wisely seek buy-in from other agencies so the Mankato region can be assured body cameras will be used consistently. Anecdotally, Mankato police officers overwhelmingly support the use of body cameras, Vokal said.

Police departments and sheriff's offices may have different levels of comfort using body cameras, but the benefits of a more precise investigation and justice outweigh the costs or minor drawbacks of using body cameras.

Body cameras can be peacekeepers in areas where potential civil strife could destroy cities. Would-be rioters will be reluctant to destroy property if they know they will show up on someone's body cam video.

Body cameras provide evidence not easily challenged. Footage of what actually happened during a police stop can calm angry family members and, as we saw in one case this past year, quell hysteria that can be amplified by social media.

Different cities can make body camera use policies tailored to their populations and the level of comfort and training of their police forces.

But it's clear body cameras are a significant tool for better policing and the support of justice. We urge all agencies in the Mankato region to adopt body cameras, like the agencies in Madelia and New Ulm.

Justice is too important to be blinded by the lack of body cameras.

© 2021 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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