WP Police: Body Cams Strengthening Cases

WP Police: Body Cams Strengthening Cases Click to Enlarge Photo: Waite Park police

(KNSI) - The Waite Park Police Department has already used body cam footage in dozens of cases since implementing them around two months ago.

Chief Dave Bentrud says, so far they have had 30-40 cases where they used body cam video of a crime to strengthen their investigations.

In the first week with body cams, Bentrud says they responded to a domestic assault with a no contact order between a man and woman.

"We were able to capture the violation right on camera, ironically the male party gave a false name, that's the kind of evidence we couldn't bring into court before."

He says evidence gathering is the biggest asset to having his officers wearing body cams.

"You can bring the emotion that is present on domestic calls, you can get a sense of the crime scene, so a jury or judge can kind of really see what the officer was seeing."

The chief says it took some getting used to for some officers.

"I think initially, yeah a little bit of reluctance, a little hesitation, it's a new thing, but I think they've come around to appreciate and value what it can bring to their cases."

Bentrud says the transition to use the new technology has been seamless.

"Staff has adjusted pretty quickly, the technology has been working fine, no hiccups, so it's been pretty good."

There are built-in triggers that automatically turn on an officer's body cam.

When an officer activates their lights and sirens, when an officer pulls their rifle from their squad car or when an officer turns on their Taser.

The department's body cam policy says officers need to start recording when responding to any domestic call or while conducting a traffic stop.

The body cams and software cost $21,211.

When asked if body cams would have helped in the investigation of the officer involved shooting in St. Cloud in October, where a Stearns County Sheriff's Deputy shot and wounded Lazaro Diaz, Bentrud says they don't catch 100 percent of every crime.

The chief cautions that just because an officer is wearing a body cam, that doesn't mean it will always show the right angle or capture everything going on at a chaotic scene.

He says they are just another tool in their toolbox to better protect and serve Waite Park.

Other local law enforcement agencies are looking into getting body cams.

The St. Cloud Police Department says they are assessing the different body cam options and data storage technology to find the best fit for their department.

Sauk Rapids police say they plan on getting body cams in the next year or so.

The Stearns County Sheriff's Office says they don't have body cams in their 2018 budget, but are looking into them for 2019.

We have a call into Sartell police to find out if they plan on using body cams in the future.

The video below is a mock scenario of an officer responding to an armed suspect inside a building.

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