by Mike Knaak
St. Joseph police officers may soon be wearing body cameras if a grant to fund them gets approved.
Police Chief Dwight Pfannenstein has applied for a $10,000 grant from the Department of Justice to cover equipping his department. The chief told the City Council at its April 20 meeting the cameras would cost $13,290 with the portion of the costs not covered by the grant coming from the department’s equipment budget or forfeiture fund.
The body cameras would be compatible with the cameras in the department’s five squad cars. The cost covers body cameras for all 10 members of the department as well as data transfer software and technical support.
Having body-camera video would help the department with court cases, Pfannenstein said.
He cited a recent incident when an officer tried to arrest a man for public urination. The man tried to run away, the officer grabbed the man and they wrestled for 30-40 seconds. The city attorney dropped disorderly and public urination charges and only charged minor consumption.
“His reward for fighting with an officer was minor consumption,” the chief said.
Cameras would save money on litigation, Pfannenstein said. For example, a person charged with DWI would not fight the charge if they knew there was video to back up the charge. Video allows for quick exoneration if there’s a complaint of officer misconduct, he said.
“Students will get the word, be careful what you say to police officers,” Pfannenstein said.
Waite Park and Sauk Rapids officers, as well as St. John’s Life Safety, use body cameras.
Council member Brian Theisen, who is also a Stearns County deputy, supported the grant application.
“They save court time, lawsuits. I’m all for them,” he said.