Monday, September 10, 2012

Does Minneapolis Police Department have a policy on personal recording devices?

In my last post I responded to a Star Tribune article how a Minneapolis law enforcement officer Timothy Callahan is involved with a civil suit involving possible withholding of evidence.  The post laid out several questions about the usage of officers using personal recorders, cell phones, and pen cameras.

From the response and comments I got from the post I decided to ask a question of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), Do you (MPD) have a policy regulating the use of these kind of recording devices by your officers?

The response was yes.  It is Administrative Order AA12-019 issued on August 14, 2012.  The subject of the administrative policy is labeled as "Using Cell Phones/Recording Devices to Capture Evidence".

The order more than likely was promulgated by MPD because of the Callahan situation getting public attention, but also as the document states there are other "few cases" where MPD officers have used their own personal recording devices "to capture evidence".  The memo states that it does not prohibit this kind of behavior, but if MPD officers are going to do it while on duty the administrative order lays out some guidelines and principles.

No matter if an officer records evidence on a personal or "department-issued cell phone or other recording device" the evidential process is the same.  The order continues to say:

"1. The cell phone or other recording device containing evidential photos or recordings shall be property inventoried. The minimum turnaround time for processing is 24 hours, possibly up to a week.

 2. The Crime Lab will process the evidence in the same manner all other phones or recording devices are being handled.  There are no exceptions.  This is to insure the integrity of the Crime Lab's processing methods."

Now the policy is not comprehensive in my view and does not answer a number of questions, but is a stop gap effort until a "Personal Recording Device policy (which) is currently in development and the MPD’s Cell Phone policy is also being revised at this time." is implemented.

I have to give credit to Minneapolis Police Chief Dolan in recognizing there is a problem and doing something immediately in which this order took effect.  But questions can be asked why it took so long to recognize this issue?  Secondly, what are other law enforcement agencies doing on this matter or do they have policies and procedures?  Are the Minnesota Police Chiefs Association along with Sheriff's Association working on a general policy?

With the proliferation of small personal recording devices that record audio and visual happenings it was only a matter of time before an issue like this would hit law enforcement.  If a law enforcement officer "records" inappropriate behavior as they do their official duties with personal devices it should be treated as any other evidence and guided by law and policies.

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