Arbitrator ends police body camera lawsuit in Maplewood

A lawsuit about Maplewood’s police body-worn camera policy ended Oct. 28 when an arbitrator ruled in favor of the city.

The Maplewood Police Department updated its body-worn camera policy Nov. 15, 2016, and three days later, the union for Maplewood police officers filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court about the way the policy was drawn up.

The goal of the lawsuit was to require Maplewood to formally bargain over two specific provisions in the new body-camera policy: general surveillance of officers by their supervisors, and the right of officers to review body-camera videos prior to giving statements when critical incidents occur.

“Upholding these provisions helps ensure transparency and accountability in police-community relations,” said Maplewood City Manager Melinda Coleman in a recent statement. 

Paul Schnell, who was the Maplewood public safety director at the time, told the Review in Nov. 2016 that the city decided those provisions were not subject to collective bargaining, and that there were at least two formal sessions where police administrators met and conferred with the union. 

He added that as a result of those meetings, the department did adopt some of the recommended changes.

In addition, the city sought input from numerous community groups before finalizing the policy. 

Input was received from a resident workgroup, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information and the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The city feels the development of this policy was fair and forthcoming, taking both the citizens and officers’ perspectives into account,” Coleman said in a statement.

“The police department feels body-worn cameras are a tremendous evidence-gathering and accountability tool that help our officers in the field and solve crimes,” police Chief Scott Nadeau, Maplewood’s current director of public safety, said in a recent statement. “In the majority of cases, body-worn camera footage vindicates the officer and protects police from unwarranted misconduct claims.”

Almost a year after the lawsuit was filed, the matter was settled by the arbitrator’s Oct. 28 decision. Isaac Kaufman, who serves as general counsel for the police union, Law Enforcement Labor Services, said the union will not be appealing the decision.


—Aundrea Kinney

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