BY STARRLA CRAY
WINSTED, MN With more US cities starting to buy body cameras for their police forces, the Winsted City Council is looking into what the rules would be before making any decisions.
“We don’t want a mandate from the state saying we must do this, but we do want clarification,” Winsted City Administrator Dan Tienter said at the Feb. 16 work session. “We want to retain that local discretion.”
The City of Minneapolis recently approved a five-year, $4 million contract for 587 body cameras and other equipment, with delivery expected in about two months. According to a Feb. 17 Minnesota Public Radio article, Minneapolis is still working to develop a policy for how the cameras will be used. Officers will likely start wearing them this fall.
In Winsted, the decision of whether or not to purchase body cameras hasn’t been made, but the city is interested in finding out more information.
At the Feb. 16 meeting, the council approved a resolution supporting legislation to clarify Minnesota’s privacy laws regarding this topic.
The resolution asks for funding from the state to purchase and maintain body cameras, and states that “officer-worn body cameras would advance both the mission of the city and the efforts of its police department by providing invaluable evidence and improving public trust.”
The resolution also states that Winsted supports amending the Minnesota Government Data Practices act to classify video as private data and/or non-public data unless it pertains to an active investigation.
Winsted also supports classifying data as non-public in cases of domestic assault, sexual assault, mental health crises, and activities involving minors/confidential law enforcement sources/hospitals/health care facilities.
Legislative meeting coming up
Members of Winsted’s city council plan to share their position on body cameras during a Minnesota state legislative meeting at Hutchinson City Hall at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 29.
Other topics they plan to address include:
• Local government aid (LGA) funding increase In 2016, the state certified $638,566 of LGA for Winsted, which is used for services such as library operations, public safety, and street maintenance. Winsted officials support a return to the amount of LGA certified in 2003, which is an increase of $67,000. Winsted also supports revising the LGA formula to include adjustments for inflation. (It is unknown at this time how, or if, the LGA formula will change for Minnesota cities.)
• Transportation funding increase According to Winsted’s 2016 to 2020 street capital improvement plan, currently planned projects are underfunded by about $1,279,945. Winsted supports an increase in non-local transportation funding, specifically for the Small Cities Assistance Account, which was created by the state in 2015. The account provides funding for cities with 5,000 people or fewer, and totaled $12.5 million last year.
• Unfunded mandate relief The resolution Winsted passed noted that unfunded or underfunded mandates supplant the judgement of local elected officials. The city supports any effort to repeal existing unfunded mandates, and opposes the imposition of any additional unfunded or underfunded mandates.
• Water infrastructure funding increase Winsted officials are hoping for additional funding for municipal water infrastructure, specifically to defray the costs of the current Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) wastewater treatment mandates. According to Winsted’s resolution, the MPCA established more stringent phosphorus limits for Winsted’s wastewater treatment plant, forcing the city to make about $4.4 million in improvements. After Winsted designed the project and released it for bid, the MPCA changed the guidelines once again, forcing the city to delay and redesign the project, and reject the previously submitted construction bids. The city’s resolution states that it supports a revised and streamlined MPCA permitting process.
Odds and ends
In other business, the council:
• approved a dance permit for the Blue Note Ballroom for Saturday, Feb. 27.
• approved a McLeod County large assembly permit for Holy Trinity’s Winstock Country Music Festival for June 9-11, as well as an agreement for emergency services and leasing of the land between McLeod County Road 5 and the Winsted Municipal Airport.