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Glencoe police chief pitches body cameras to city council

Glencoe Police Chief Jim Raiter brought a list of proposed investments to Monday afternoon’s city council workshop. None was more important than a request the city council approve funding for the department’s 11 officers to begin wearing body cameras next year.
“I’ve put a lot of thought into this,” the chief told the council. “The public expects and demands transparency.”
Any reasonable person hopes a Glencoe police officer will never be in the kind of a life-or-death situation police in Minneapolis, St. Paul or some of their suburbs have faced in recent years. After adjournment, Chief Raiter told a councilor about a call where three Glencoe officers faced a young man wielding a butcher knife.
Had the officers been forced to defend themselves from an inquiry regarding the use of deadly force, the images body cameras would have collected could go a long way toward proving, or disproving, claims deadly force was needed. Fortunately, the incident was resolved without deadly force.
The images recorded by the cameras worn by two St. Paul police officers who recently shot and killed a man offered proof the shooting was justified. Without those images, the case is a matter of whose story a jury, a judge and the public will believe.
But in most cases, the images a body camera will record are far less severe. They can prove whether an officer appropriately conversed with a citizen, whether a person’s claims an officer responding to a domestic assault acted appropriately are true or false, or just how impaired a person suspected of DWI actually was. The images could easily save the city several times the $38,577 cost of the cameras and data storage over the first five years if they can prevent an unnecessary claim against the city.
In an era where most everyone on the street today is carrying a camera, body cameras are a new tool that reflect the changing world we live in. In the litigious world of today, a case could easily be made Glencoe is overdue in providing its officers the video technology.
A challenge associated with the cameras is the creation of a policy addressing how the technology will be utilized by Glencoe police officers and how the data they collect will be released to the public when requested.
For now, the request to fund body cameras is a portion of Raiter’s 2019 budget proposal. Some councilors, but not all, seemed supportive at the Aug. 27 workshop. Hopefully the chief’s request will survive the thorough scrutiny the city’s departmental operating budget review process requires.