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There has been a growing demand for the documentation of police officer encounters with suspects and the public at large. A West Metro company is developing a new tool for law enforcement that provides a unique insight during a use of force incident. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has tracked many uses of force incidents across Minnesota. Officer involved shootings that have ended in injuries or deaths have occurred nearly 150 times since 2009. That’s one reason why agencies statewide started using squad car cameras, including the West Hennepin Public Safety Department.
“I think everyone wants transparency,” West Hennepin Public Safety Director Gary Kroells said. Other larger departments, like Burnsville and Minneapolis, have gone a step further by adding body cameras to their equipment. While departments have turned to the use of cameras to promote transparency, the technology doesn’t capture everything.
According to kstp.com, after the recent shooting death of Justine Damon last month, it was revealed the officers involved had not turned on their body cameras. It’s that kind of outcome Brian Hedeen, the president of Viridian Weapon Tech, is trying to limit. His company has developed a weapon mounted lens that provides another set of eyes during officer-involved shootings.
“The camera is activated immediately when the gun is drawn from the holster and that’s what makes this unique,” Hedeen said.
The camera is compact and fits on the rail of a firearm and It records whatever is at the end of the muzzle. Often times, it’s a vantage point that can’t be detected from a body camera. That’s why agencies like the West Hennepin Public Safety Department have signed on to test out the technology.
“It allows for human error or mistakes to not occur, we’re all human and in this particular case anytime you pull your weapon out it could be a deadly force situation so we’d like to have that on video,” said Kroells. The developer of the technology believes it provides more transparency than the body cameras. “Our goal is to help a lot of current problems where we don’t really know what happened,” Hedeen said.
The cost to outfit a gun is $500. The developer said it’s a one time cost, and unlike body cameras, there is no ongoing charge for software or data storage.