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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Public input sought for how sheriff’s department body cams should be used

David Colburn
Posted 12/8/21

REGIONAL- St. Louis County is on the verge of spending nearly $800,000 to equip sheriff’s department personnel with body cameras, and county officials are seeking public input on how and when …

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Public input sought for how sheriff’s department body cams should be used


REGIONAL- St. Louis County is on the verge of spending nearly $800,000 to equip sheriff’s department personnel with body cameras, and county officials are seeking public input on how and when the cameras should be used.
Supervising Deputy Wade Rasch said on Tuesday that the department has been considering body cams for years, but two hurdles had to be overcome before they could proceed.
“One is easy to point to and that’s funding,” Rasch said. “It’s costly, not just the units themselves, but the data storage.” Rasch said that well over half of the cost of the system will go toward data storage through a subscription to a cloud-based storage system.
“There’s all this technology packed into your cell phone that can do amazing things, but in order to keep it running there’s that monthly payment for service,” Rasch said. “In a similar way, that’s how the body camera system works, and the ongoing storage of data becomes costly because it’s so large.”
One cost-saving measure, putting cameras only on uniformed officers, was considered but dismissed, Rasch said.
“What we determined is that with just a partial rollout, we wouldn’t be doing the proper service to the community of what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “There would undoubtedly be some (situation) that would not be captured (on video) by a plainclothes deputy that was doing something. Then we’d have to point to the fact that not all our deputies have cameras, only some of them do. We just felt that that was a poor way to roll it out, kind of piecemeal, even though it might be saving money.”
But now the county’s Information Technology department has some money available for public safety innovation endeavors, which makes the purchase possible.
“This obviously fits correctly into that,” Rasch said.
The second challenge had to do with the recordings themselves.
“The other main issue would be the statutory obligation for the data itself,” Rasch said. “Does it fall into different categories for data retention and data privacy? How can that be released and disseminated?”
Time has benefitted the department in this regard, as the increasing use of body cams over the years has spawned an array of policies, legal opinions, and legislative actions that have helped to define answers to those questions, and the department put this information to good use in developing its proposed body camera policy.
“What we have done with our draft is to try to take what we believe applies best to our agency, not only what covers all the bases of statutory obligations, but also what works procedurally for us and addresses questions that come up with community members and stakeholders,” Rasch said.
The department believes that body cameras will benefit both officers and the public by providing additional evidence documenting officer encounters and incidents.
“That evidence can help to prove wrongdoing on anyone’s part,” Rasch said. “It also can dispel rumors or allegations that were unfounded, again on both people’s parts, whether that’s a citizen encounter or the law enforcement officers. We’ve come so far as a nation in the prevalence of body cameras, and I can’t speak enough of how they have helped everyone out.”
The specific rationale for having body cams is spelled out in the proposed policy:
 To enhance deputy safety.
 To document statements and events during the course of an incident.
 To enhance the deputy’s ability to document and review statements and actions for both internal reporting requirements and for courtroom preparation and presentation.
 To preserve visual and audio information for use in current and future investigations.
 To provide a tool for self-critique and field evaluation during deputy training and to assist with on-going training and evaluation.
 To enhance the public trust by preserving factual representations of deputy-citizen interactions in the form of recorded media.
 To assist with the defense of civil actions against deputies and the county.
The St. Louis County Board is scheduled to vote at its Dec. 14 meeting on a resolution that would authorize the purchase of 110 body cameras, along with supporting accessories and equipment, at a cost of $790,000 to be paid over five years.
The sheriff’s office would like to receive public comments on both the implementation of these devices as well as the proposed policy of when and how they’ll be used.
The proposed policy can be found online at Public comment on both the implementation of body worn cameras, as well as the proposed policy surrounding their use, can be submitted via email to, by calling 218-336-4347, or by mail to: St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, Attn: BWC, 100 North 5th Avenue West, Room 103, Duluth, MN 55802.
People also may make comments at the County Board meeting on Dec. 14. The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. and will be held at the St. Louis County Government Services Center in Duluth, 320 West 2nd Street, in the Lake Superior Room on the second floor.


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