BY GABE LICHT
MAPLE PLAIN, MN After participating in a pilot program, West Hennepin Public Safety Department is issuing the FACT Duty Weapon-Mounted Camera to all 10 of its officers.
The FACT Duty fits officer weapons and holsters, and records automatically, providing an unobstructed view from the end of the firearm.
“For our department, the FACT Duty just makes sense,” WHPSD Chief Gary Kroells said. “This gives us the coverage we need and fits our budget. We looked at body cams, but their administrative requirements and data management made them impractical for us.”
“We’re happy to provide a solution for West Hennepin Public Safety that meets their needs,” said Brian Hedeen, the president and CEO of Viridian Weapon Technologies, the Maple Plain-based company that produces the FACT Duty.
Kroells said, “The FACT Duty will provide clear evidence if an officer is forced to use their service pistol.” He added that the decision to implement the FACT Duty department-wide was “based on training and field data.”
For the pilot program, WHPSD deployed three FACT Duty cameras on officers’ duty weapons during their normal shifts and during training days at the gun range. Officers also added the FACT Duty to simulation training guns to capture footage during scenario-based training.
A FACT Duty camera captured one incident during the pilot program.
“This call was a 911 call where the officers ended up making entry into the residence, going into an unknown situation and, appropriately, had their weapons drawn,” Sgt. Rick Denneson said. “Everything was OK at the house, and the call turned out to be a non-issue, with phone problems causing the repeated 911 calls.”
Denneson highlighted some of the camera’s features that were accentuated during the pilot program.
“The testing that we did showed us high-quality audio and video images, both during daylight and nighttime hours,” Denneson said. “The automatic on and off feature of the camera is one of the biggest highlights to this piece of equipment, along with the high-quality video and audio.”
Because the FACT Duty is only activated when a weapon is drawn, there is much less data that needs to be retained and maintained.
“During the pilot, Chief Kroells and I set up a procedure for downloading any video captured to save it in a secure file,” Denneson said. “The other awesome feature that we have talked about before is the ease of downloading these cameras securely to a file, and the small amount of data that we will have to retain.”
“The big difference with the cost is the ongoing storage and software,” Hedeen said when WHPSD started the pilot program in October 2017. “The upfront cost (of body cameras) is not usually very significant, but what is significant is the ongoing data storage and management software. That takes a lot of time, management, and money.”
Those are factors departments of all sizes take into account throughout their efforts to document critical events.
“Current events point to the fact that body and dash cameras alone are inadequate and, because of this, more than 250 police departments around the country are in the process of testing and implementing FACT Duty WMCs,” Hedeen said, referencing departments as large as the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “These WMCs provide an unfettered perspective for officer-involved shootings and other use-of-force incidents, and our products help show what really happened.”
In the wake of police-involved shootings in Minnesota and throughout the country, members of the public often demand as much information and footage as possible be made available as soon as possible. Some incidents have resulted in criminal charges, riots, and lawsuits.
“As we closely monitor these events around the country, along with the aftermath when affected parties do not believe justice was served, we realize that our solution cannot be implemented soon enough by more departments,” said Matthew Plowman, general counsel at Viridian. “Much of the controversy, like in so many past incidents and trials, was what the officer saw when pulling the trigger. The FACT Duty is a tool to provide objective evidence both for potential legal proceedings and police communication to the general public to help eliminate the uncertainty in officer-involved shootings that is the source of much conflict.”