Saturday, March 5, 2016

What's Minneapolis position on the body cam bills at Legislature?

Minneapolis is a key player with their influence at the Legislature.  Where they stand on the various bills going through the Legislature - for strong transparency and accountability for the public or very limited transparency and accountability for the public.  Are the elected officials speaking or the law enforcement officials of Minneapolis?

I sent this email to City Council members.  I was only able to find four email addresses out of the 13 Council members.

"My name is Rich Neumeister.  I 've been in the forefront of many privacy and open government issues for nearly 4 decades at the Minnesota Legislature.  I am a citizen who lobbies for no money.  My public record what I have done speaks for itself.

I want to encourage you to take interest on what is happening at the Legislature on the issue of body cameras. Being the state's largest City you will have the most body cameras appendaged to officers gathering "government data" (videos).  Many policymakers in your City have stated that you are interested to develop trust with communities in Minneapolis with the police department in using the powerful tool of body cameras.

Even Mayor Hodges stated: "I am proud to support body cameras for all officers: they are an essential tool for holding officers accountable for their behavior, making corrections when necessary, and building community trust, for police officers have the potential to increase public trust in law enforcement, reduce the risk that citizens will not be victims of excessive force and protect officers from unfounded accusations of abuse."

But these goals - which the Mayor has announced and which many in law enforcement and in the political arena support  - are being squelched by special interests or even by the same parties who say they support "transparency and accountability" at the Minnesota Legislature.

There are three bills on the issue that 3 legislators Rep. Scott, Rep. Cornish, and Senator Latz are involved with. Good article in the Pioneer Press today, on those bills and related issues. http://www.twincities.com/2016/03/04/why-cant-these-3-police-body-camera-bills-find-any-common-ground/

So what is Minneapolis's position on these bills?  Specifics?  The Latz/Cornish bills downgrade accountability and transparency.  As top cop lobbyist, Mr. Flaherty states in public testimony last year before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the use of body cameras is a "new paradigm" which can make officers "more accountable and transparent to the public we serve." but in the same testimony he states "making data public really serves no public purpose."  He and his organization, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, support the Latz/Cornish versions of the body camera bill with very little transparency which then allows "hollow" public accountability.  The Minnesota Police Chiefs Association is basically of same persuasion.

I encourage you as policymakers to speak out on what the City's position through your lobbyists on this important issue.

It is my intent to make sure that if body cameras are to be used by Minnesota law enforcement, they are not a front for accountability which would create more distrust, and continue the legacy of decades of "tension and hostility" in the communities where law enforcement officers serve.  I hearten you to do the same. There are grievances because of abrasive/abusive practices and behavior, "further aggravated by the lack of effective mechanism" to deal with complaints against law enforcement.  Body cameras are being proposed to be an effective mechanism for oversight.

But oversight will be hollow and vacant if the laws that regulate the power of this law enforcement tool do not provide real transparency.

I also support a consent provision which allows people to say no in being filmed in their home, which is the very core of the Fourth Amendments protections in non-emergency situations

Any questions, contact me."

Rich Neumeister

1 comment:

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