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Some Minn. Police To Begin Testing Gun-Mounted Cameras

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As more police departments begin equipping officers with body cameras, a new type of camera is being tested by cops nationwide.

What makes it different is that it's mounted on a weapon, and automatically turns on when the gun is pulled from the holster.

Officers in Independence and Maple Plain will be some of the first to test it out in Minnesota.

Monday they showed us how it works.

Sgt. Rick Denneson is one of three officers with the West Hennepin Public Safety Department who'll will take part in a pilot program beginning in November.

He shared a video with us -- a simulation of a high risk traffic stop shows what a camera mounted directly on a police officer's gun could record.

"The weapon-mounted camera is built so that as soon as I take the weapon out of my holster, it automatically comes on," Sgt. Denneson said.

It eliminates the risk of the camera not being turned on, as we saw in the high-profile case of Justine Damond who was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer who didn't activate his body camera.

It also offers an unobstructed view.

"A lot of times we will see where an officer's arms or hands will come up in front of the camera and block that view as they hold the weapon in front of them," Sgt. Denneson said.

The department was approached by Viridian Weapon Technologies in Maple Plain, to test their weapon-mounted cameras in the field.

Gun-mounted camera
(credit: Viridian Weapon Technologies)

One of the criticisms of the technology is that it doesn't capture the interactions that lead up to an officer pulling out his or her gun.

But Sgt. Denneson says the cameras mounted in their patrol cars and the wireless microphones on officer's bodies provide that.

"I think it's better video at the high level use of force times, audio and video captured from a pretty much unobstructed view at the end of the weapon to see what's happening," he said.

Sgt. Denneson says the cost is about $500 a camera and they will consider the purchase after a three month trial period.

Viridian says they are talking with other police departments in Minnesota and they've reached agreements with departments in St. Petersburg, Florida and Williams, Arizona to launch pilot programs there.

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