Minneapolis police officers apparently violated the city’s body cam policy multiple times on Saturday night when officer Mohamed Noor gunned down 40-year-old Justine Damond. Investigators say there is no body cam video of the incident, but have not indicated why that is the case.
Dave Bicking with Communities United Against Police Brutality says policy at minimum required Noor and his partner Matthew Harrity to activate their body cams after the shooting took place. The cams are on constant record and will retain the previous 30 seconds of an event once they are activated. Turning them on immediately after the shooting would have saved a recording of what happened.
Bicking says “it’s uncertain” whether the situation required the body cameras to be on before the shooting. “But it absolutely required them afterwards,” because deadly force was used.
The city’s posted body cam policy says, “If a situation changes to require activation, the officer shall immediately activate the BWC (Body Worn Camera) as soon as it is safe to do so.” Bicking says once Noor fired at Damond policy required that one if not both of the officers turn on their body cams.
“The other officer who didn’t have a gun in his hand, he could have done that little double tap on the camera on his chest at any time,” said Bicking, describing how the cameras are put into record mode. “It should be a matter of habit for officers. All officers have had these for at least eight months, some of them for a year.”
History indicates police don’t want to be recorded
Bicking is very familiar with the Minneapolis police body cam policy and police behavior because he has served on a board that reviewed police conduct.
“Police officers do really not like being filmed by the public. We have many, many, many cases where officers have harassed, even beaten up and arrested people who have tried to film them. If they are so resistant to being on film by the public, why would they turn on their own body cameras? And as it turns out, absent a strong policy and strong enforcement, they simply don’t.”
As evidence, Bicking pointed to a recent KSTP-TV report on Minneapolis police body cam use. The report indicated that the average officer only had a body cam turned on for six hours a month. “These body cameras are almost never on,” said Bicking. “And presumably they’re only turning them on at the times when they don’t mind being filmed.”
Bicking says every officer that responded to the scene was supposed to turn on their body cam as well. If they didn’t, that would also be a violation of city policy.
As far as a technical failure being responsible for no body cam video, it would be very unlikely for both officers’ body cams to fail at the same time. Bicking says Minneapolis has not posted data about body cam failures, but he says officers are required to check to make sure they are working at the beginning of each shift.
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which is doing the investigation into the shooting, says no dash cam video of the incident exists either. American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota interim Executive Director Teresa Nelson called upon the BCA to release any audio recordings that may have been made by the squad car’s dash cam.