Eagan Police Department
Implementation of Body Worn Cameras
Over the past few days, my department has engaged in an e-mail exchange with a concerned citizen who inquired about our timeline with regards to the implementation of Portable Audio Video Recorders (PAVR), also known as Body Worn Camera’s. The process for implementation was explained to this citizen, but unfortunately we were not able to provide him an exact date, so he’s taken to social media encouraging people to overwhelm my e-mail with demands to know an exact date, which occurred overnight. Following the death of George Floyd, I’ve spent countless hours responding to e-mails, putting together letter’s, and personally speaking to residents, which I offered to do with this citizen and he declined.
Ideally, I would like to take the time to respond to every e-mail, but unfortunately the current demands on my schedule simply don’t afford me the time to do so. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to summarize what we’ve done so far.
- In August of 2010, the City Council accepted a grant from the State of MN for 14 Panasonic in-squad cameras valued at $70,000
- The department has expanded the use of in-squad cameras to all squads
- We now have 26 in-squad cameras in use
- In 2017, we began exploring the idea of implementing PAVR’S.
- In 2017, we started looking for grant money to buy PAVR’S.
- In 2018, staff expressed a strong desire to add PAVR’s for “transparency”.
- In our 2020-2021 budget, PAVR’s were approved by the City Council.
- June 2019 the City Council authorized the Police Department to move forward with the process.
- December 2019, the council was given an opportunity to comment on the policy and processes, where they directed staff to move forward.
- January 2020, the city published a comment period for citizens regarding PAVR’s
- No comments were received
- It was announced the city would hold a public meeting on February 4, 2020
- One citizen attended this meeting to comment
- The City Council formally approved the policy after the public hearing per MN State Statute
- After the February 4th meeting, the department established a schedule with three vendors to test the equipment.
- Axon, Panasonic and WatchGuard
- February 2020, testing was supposed to start with Axon, but the company postponed the start of the test due to their staff changes.
- March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic pushed testing out further.
- April 2020, we started testing the Axon product.
- June 2020, we are scheduled to test Panasonic
- July or August 2020 we are scheduled to test Watch-guard
- August or September 2020, a final draft of the policy will go before council.
- September 2020 place the order.
- October or November 2020, install the equipment and train staff.
- December 2020 full implementation
Hopefully, we can meet this timeline, but after being in law enforcement for 26 years, I’m not optimistic, as this process also includes updating our in-squad car camera system. The other challenge we face is vendors meeting the proposed dates outlined above, and the availability of equipment once a decision is made. Also, we can’t forget the fact there’s talk about another spike with Covid-19, which may impact the timeline.
I believe it’s important to point out that my department has been engaged in discussions regarding PAVR’s since 2014, where we continued to evaluate the technology and its usefulness. During our 2018, Strategic Planning meeting, officers advised me they wanted the cameras and cited “transparency” as the main reason they wanted them. We moved the process forward, and at our June 2019, City Council meeting, I advised them, “the timing is right, as we are not following a crisis, and we don’t have the public demanding that we get them”. We made the decision to move forward in an effort to be “transparent”.
I would also like to share some other things we’ve done to engage all members of our community:
- In 2016, we created a Community Affairs Group which is made up of a diverse group people from our community, where we seek their feedback, and we’ve discussed different aspects of policing.
- We spend time doing community outreach at our local schools.
- Seven of our officers are Implicit Bias instructors.
- Annually, we put our staff thru CIT and De-Escalation training
- Three of our officers are trainers.
- Four of the last five officers hired were women.
- We created a Police Cadet position in 2017, with hopes of drawing more diverse candidates.
- We changed our mission statement in 2019 to read:
The Eagan Police Department is committed to providing public safety and maintaining public trust by serving with respect and professionalism.
George Floyd’s death has impacted us all and I would agree we need to look at policing and see what changes can be made. However, we need to go about that process in a reasonable manner, and not make demands for something that’s simply out of our control. As your Chief, I want to ensure you we are committed to getting this done as quickly as possible. The addition of the PAVR’s serves as another example of how we try to build trust in our community, by simply doing the right thing.