- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minneapolis, St. Paul and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe police forces came out winners in the chase for federal body camera grants.

The Department of Justice awards announced Monday evening had the three Minnesota agencies among 73 nationwide that qualified for a share of $23 million in body camera purchase and training grants. There were 285 applicants seeking a total of $56 million in the first of what could be three rounds of grants.

Minneapolis and St. Paul will each receive $600,000 that they’ll have to match with local funds to outfit officers with the tiny recording devices. Leech Lake secured about $42,000.

Hours before the grants were announced Monday, Minneapolis Deputy Chief Travis Glampe told The Associated Press that the city’s plan was to start deploying cameras early next year, with a goal of eventually having 600 in the field. He said police leaders want to be deliberate in the rollout to work through possible kinks.

“The money spent is going to pay dividends in the accountability and transparency the cameras bring,” Glampe said about recording interactions that police have with people they encounter. “This is about recording the event. It’s not about vindicating the officer. It’s not about vindicating anyone who might have a complaint.”

According to its application, St. Paul plans to put 400 cameras in use, accounting for two-thirds of its sworn officers. It also plans an incremental implementation.

Several other Minnesota police agencies already have broad body camera programs, most notably Duluth and Burnsville. But some others are holding back until state lawmakers can sort out how the data from the cameras will be regulated.

A collection of cities is waiting on a ruling from the Minnesota Department of Administration on a request to temporary classify most body camera data as private until otherwise instructed by the Legislature. Government information watchdog groups say such a setup would defeat a core purpose of the devices: giving the public a window into policing decisions and officer behavior.

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