Saturday, May 7, 2016

Minnesota law enforcement neuters police oversight and accountability

Minnesota law enforcement ambitious attempts to improve community trust, transparency, and accountability with use of body cameras took a turn for the worse, with law enforcement agencies and interests themselves lobbying legislators to turn the bill to make it hard to trust, less transparent, and no accountability to and for the public. (say one thing do another)

Lobbyists and lawyers from the Minnesota Police Chiefs Association, League of Minnesota Cities, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, along with others from similar interests have been putting on great pressure to pass their "owned" bill on the issues that really matter. (Some funded directly or indirectly by taxpayer dollars)  The legislation allows for secrecy of documented police behavior on public streets when they are on duty.  Sets up barriers for subjects and the general public to gain access to body camera videos.  Even the limited footage allowed to the general public allows agencies with broad discretionary power not to release. No specific consent or notice to film you and your abode when agents of government come into your home in non-emergency situations with digitally enhanced cameras, among some of the goodies law enforcement interests got.

Appears that Minnesota Police Chiefs Association are on the same side with the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.....promise transparency and accountability with use of body cameras, but then undercut with doing action and talking out of both sides of their mouths.

Nothing new.  Have seen it many times.  Are legislators really going to buy into these efforts by the special interests of law enforcement without knowing the full ramifications and consequences of these unique bills?

This is the first attempt in 35 years to mass a major shift of police information that have been public to become secret at the Minnesota Legislature with hardly any policymakers asking the tough questions. I asked Rep. Cornish when bill was introduced last year about if he would be open to changes.  The die was already cast with  him telling me whatever the cops want that is what it will be.

I was hoping for changing the culture of how law enforcement works in Minnesota with greater oversight, community trust, accountability. and transparency with body cameras.  It basically is going to be used as an investigative and surveillance tool.

It is important that any body camera law not be used to shield a policeman's nightstick, gun, or power to be used in secret without accountability and transparency.  The body camera issue is complex and the legislation needs to be looked at in detail.  This has not happened.


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