‘Can I cut this?’: Potter trial reignites debate over police body camera policies

In the chaotic aftermath of the Daunte Wright shooting, as officers try to find out what happened during the traffic stop involving now-convicted former Central Brooklyn police officer Kimberly Potter at the At least four officers stopped recording their conversations by disabling their police-worn cameras. .

Prosecutors released the videos during Potter’s manslaughter trial in December, as officers testified to what they saw when they arrived at the scene.

Central Brooklyn Police Officer Alan Salvosa, one of the first officers to arrive after Potter fired a single shot in Daunte Wright’s chest, muted his body camera twice during conversations with a paramedic and a fellow policeman.

sergeant. Mychal Johnson, right, was one of four officers who muted their body cameras after the shooting of Daunte Wright in April 2021.

Then-Sgt. Mychal Johnson, who witnessed the shooting, allowed an officer to disable his body camera during a conversation just after taking Potter’s gun into evidence.

The footage has reignited debate over policies that allow officers to choose which interactions they record with their body-worn cameras.

Police chiefs say such discretion is necessary because there are times on duty when officers can and should be allowed to have private conversations.

“That may not be…particularly important to the incident or what happens next.”

-Jeff Potts, Minnesota Association of Chiefs of Police

But lawmakers and police reform advocates began calling for changes to those policies last year after a months-long review of high-profile cases by 5 INQUIRIES found officers turned off or muted their body cameras amid critical incidents that have led to civil suits or criminal charges.

“If you have nothing to hide, show it,” said Amity Dimock, whose son was killed by Brooklyn Center police in 2019.

Prosecutors determined officers were justified when they shot Kobe Dimock-Heisler after threatening his grandfather with a knife.

Police say the 21-year-old, who was on the autism spectrum, was unarmed when he first arrived after a 911 call, but then grabbed a knife from the couch .

Video from body-worn cameras showed officers opening fire after their Tasers failed to function.

Cameras also captured one of the first officers to respond asking them to “turn off your body worn clothing”.

That responding officer was Kimberly Potter.

“People really thought that a body-worn camera should be kept from the time an officer comes on shift until the time they leave their shift,” Dimock said. “It’s not right when they turn off the body cameras because you don’t have the whole story.”

The Central Brooklyn Police Department’s policy manual allows officers to temporarily stop or disable recordings on their body-worn cameras to “exchange information with other officers.”

The acting Central Brooklyn Police Chief did not respond to multiple interview requests.

Jeff Potts, former Bloomington Police Chief and now executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, defended these policies in an interview with 5 INVESTIGATES.

“There can be conversations about what tactics they used or didn’t use, where they … have an exchange about how we should have handled this or what we should have done differently,” he said. “That may not be…particularly important to the incident and what happens next.”

“It’s not right when they turn off the body cameras because you don’t have the whole story.”

-Amity Dimock

But state Rep. Carlos Mariani, D-St. Paul, said allowing officers to essentially stop recording critical evidence at the scene raises more transparency issues.

He was first alarmed by the practice last year when 5 INVESTIGATES obtained footage showing officers stopping the wrong car during a high-speed chase and shooting an innocent family at gunpoint. After the family reported the error, each officer at the scene either turned off their body-worn camera or muted the microphone.

“That particular story was an angle that I hadn’t thought of,” he said. “Whether it’s fair or not, this… just portrays, you know, what you’re hiding?” »

Mariani said policies like this further strain trust between police and the public, which is why he backs a $100 million investment in public safety led by the DFL that would provide money to services policies for body camera programs, including “transparency requirements” which include a ban on altering, deleting or destroying any recordings.

Dimock said she would push for legislative approval of those policy changes during the next session which is scheduled to begin Jan. 31.

“You just want answers,” she said. “And when they don’t show you anything, it’s hard to believe what they say.”

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