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Grand Forks Police equipping officers with body cameras

The Grand Forks Police Department is embracing technology and starting to use a more advanced method of surveillance.

Since mid-February, officers have been using body cameras on a trial basis. The cameras are a little smaller than a smartphone, attach to the front of an officer’s clothing and record a video of everything the officer sees that can later be uploaded to the department’s server.

“I think the public in general knows if they’re being videotaped, they tend to be on their best behavior, and the police are no different than anybody else,” Lt. Dwight Love said.

The department has been using six cameras for the last few months on everything from routine traffic stops to interviews and interrogations. While there aren’t any concrete financing plans in place, Love said they plan to purchase one for every officer in the fall, depending on available funding.

The body cameras, which cost about $900, are much cheaper than the traditional car-mounted cameras on their police vehicles that can cost thousands of dollars depending on the model.

“They can even be mounted on the windshield,” Love said. “I can see in the future not even spending the money on car cameras.”

Nationwide, the cameras have helped monitor the use of police force, but Love said the Grand Forks police receive very few complaints about their conduct. Instead, they use the cameras to collect evidence.

For example, if a person admits to speeding and then later tries to take the officer to court, the officer can pull up the video and prove the defendant admitted to the infraction.

Grand Forks police are prohibited from using the cameras to during this trial period to record nudity or activate them in sensitive areas like locker or dressing rooms.

Love said if an officer can legally have a conversation with a person, they can also legally record, but said “we’re going to do the right thing and let people know we’re recording.”

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.