Ramsey County Sheriff's Office patrol deputies began using body cameras Sept. 27. All patrol deputies in White Bear Township, Vadnais Heights and Shoreview will now wear them at all times.
Deputies will turn on their cameras when they respond to a call or an incident, said Sheriff Bob Fletcher during a press conference at the Arden Hills Patrol Station Sept. 27. Incidents include any interaction with residents that require police action, such as traffic stops, Fletcher explained.
The implementation of body cameras for patrol deputies is phase one of the office's plans to get body cameras for all 400 of its staff, Fletcher said. In October, deputies in the courts and civil process divisions will receive cameras. Later this year, correctional officers who work at the jail will receive them.
Deputies at the press conference said they are glad to have body cameras. The cameras provide legal protection and will make writing reports easier.
The sheriff's office is the third largest law enforcement agency in the state to implement body cameras, Fletcher said. The St. Paul and Minneapolis police departments have already implemented them. The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and Minnesota State Patrol have yet to do so.
Ramsey County implemented body cameras earlier than planned due to Fletcher's campaign promise to roll them out as soon as possible.
“These cameras are a symbol of trust,” Fletcher said. Many people are not sure if they can trust law enforcement but the cameras make it easier to build relationships of trust, he noted. “Day in and day out this is about how we relate with others in the community,” he added.
Fletcher performed audits of body cameras before he was reelected sheriff and learned how interactions between citizens and officers improve when the cameras are used. They hold both deputies and community members accountable.
The sheriff's office will keep the recordings for 90 days to a year. But critical incidents where a deputy uses use of force will never be deleted.