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The Minneapolis Police Department, which has a smaller staff, is just getting started. For now, the department’s two media spokesmen are learning to shoot video. Some planned events might be assigned to a crime lab videographer, or supervisors could capture footage on their cellphones, Harteau said.

The city has no plans to put cameras in the hands of all officers.

After its first two months, the Minneapolis YouTube channel had more than 6,000 views of its 13 clips. The most popular video is raw footage of authorities rescuing a despondent man from a highway overpass. There are also clips from the Occupy arrests and from a news conference in which the mayor announced Harteau as his choice to be the next chief.

Sam Richards, an Occupy Minnesota organizer, said the police video of the April 7 arrests was “like a joke.” He pointed out that protesters’ claims go beyond whether they were ordered to disperse. And he noted that one officer was accused of knocking a TV crew member’s camera to the ground _ which protesters caught on video.

“I don’t think it’s for transparency,” Richards said. “I think it’s for them to save face and maybe even intimidate us.”

A complaint was filed in the case of the videojournalist, police said, but protesters have made no formal complaints.

Minneapolis police Lt. Mike Sauro said citizen videos often show only the end of a confrontation, when force is being used, not the circumstances that led up to it.

“Anybody who hangs around with the cops for a while” sees the difficulties they face, said Sauro, who was fired in the 1990s after allegations he used excessive force and eventually got reinstated. The YouTube channel is a good idea, he said, but the department shouldn’t turn itself into a propaganda machine.

“The public pays our salary, and they should know exactly what’s going on, whether good, bad or indifferent,” he added.

In neighboring St. Paul, police have not posted any videos on YouTube, but senior police Commander Joe Neuberger said video can aid investigations.

For example, recordings made when the city hosted the 2008 Republican National Convention helped bring additional charges against violent protesters. And when protesters sought to use video they had collected in a civil case against police, officers countered with their own footage. A judge then refused to allow the protesters’ video into evidence.

Harteau acknowledges video’s limitations. For one thing, the camera only sees what it is pointed at. In addition, some footage can’t be posted because of investigative or privacy concerns.

Palmer, who has experience as a street officer, said video once cleared him when someone complained he had used derogatory language and acted rudely during a traffic stop. Footage taken from the squad car showed that wasn’t the case.

“You have to step up and take responsibility for those things that are mistakes,” Palmer said. “But you also have to use it as a tool to show your side of the story and promote values of the city and the police department.”


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