Winona votes to fund bodycams for city’s police department

Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 7:28 PM CDT
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WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) – Monday, Winona City Council voted in favor of adding police bodycams to the WPD fleet. The Council approved city staff to enter into a purchase agreement for the equipment with BodyWorn by Utility technology.

This decision has been a year in the making following the Winona County Sheriff’s Office also making this change.

WPD’s Chief of Police, Tom Williams, said he’d like the cameras to be in use by this summer.

“It protects the officers from the possibility of somebody saying the officer did something that was inappropriate or that they shouldn’t have done. Excessive force obviously comes to mind, that an officer used more force than what was necessary and this body camera can show the footage that no, maybe the officer did not do that,” he said.

He said it also adds transparency.

“The citizens then, if an officer did use excessive force, it holds that officer accountable for their actions and provides a greater level of trust for the community,” Williams said.

The bodycams would be used for all officers. Williams said the department currently has 38 officers.

The total cost for the cameras and the technology to run them costs the city $330,000. The city also received a $78,000 grant from the state to help fund the cameras.

A representative from Utility technology says the technology in BodyWorn cameras removes the risk of an officer forgetting or neglecting to turn on their camera.

“If I get dispatched on a radio run. Based on the chief’s policy say I’m dispatched on a robbery progress. By the chief’s policy the simple fact, that I as an officer have been dispatched on a robbery in progress, the computer system will turn my camera on for me. With our holster sensors, if I pull my gun out of my holster, it will turn that camera on for me,” said Brian Churchill, BodyWorn by Utility technology sales associate.

Body Worn cameras are placed inside an officer’s vest. Some other agencies use body cameras that are worn outside the police vest.

Winona Police gets bodycams
Winona Police gets bodycams(KTTC)

Churchill said that since Body Worn cams are inside it reduces the chance of the camera falling off.

“If your body camera is off of your body on the ground filming the street light. The police department can’t tell which side of the story. The community can’t get the satisfaction that they know the whole story. And problems result from that, “said Churchill.

One community member believes the devices are necessary.

“With body cams, I think it could only bring good things because of the fact that the police are wearing them, and that would only show the true side of the stories,” said Tyler Piel, A Winona resident.

The public will have a chance to provide the city input on the body cams and then a policy will be implemented.

The police chief would like the system in place by this summer.

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