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Cloquet City Council approves grant application for police body cameras

The Cloquet City Council voted to approve the application for a federal grant of $38,000 for body cameras for the Cloquet Police Department.

Cloquet City Hall.jpg
Cloquet City Hall. 2019 file / Pine Journal
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CLOQUET — The Cloquet City Council voted unanimously to approve the application for a federal grant worth $38,000, during a meeting Tuesday, May 3.

The grant would be used over two years and would be for body worn cameras for all officers in the Cloquet Police Department.

Police Chief Derek Randall presented the proposal to the council and explained how the grant would work with upgrades for the department.

The vote by the council only approved accepting the grant, as Randall said it is the first step before moving forward in the process.

Randall said, in speaking with the vendors for the cameras, if the department were to also purchase new stun guns as well, there would be a bundle discount of 20%.

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"Tasers are one of the only less lethal tools we have," he said. "The concern we have is should one of those Tasers fail in a (less lethal) situation ... our next option could possibly be lethal force."

The stun guns the department currently uses are from 2004, according to Randall, and have been discontinued by the manufacturer.

Randall said the bundle deal would help to save costs in the future when the department would have to update the stun guns.

The total cost over five years for the bundle of body cameras and new stun guns is estimated to be $234,000 over the course of five years, with a savings of $94,000.

Randall said the reason for proposing this is to have increased transparency for the department and meet the new standard for law enforcement to have body cameras.

"It creates challenges when we don't have something to confirm or verify our actions or the actions of the public," he said.

Councilor Elizabeth "Lyz" Jaakola asked about how the cost of the project would impact residents.

City Administrator Tim Peterson said the grant would help to keep any levy increase low to fund the project, but for the third through fifth year of the project it could see a raise of 2 to 3%.

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Peterson added the stun guns in the department need to be improved regardless of if the council would choose to move forward with this bundle.

Mayor Roger Maki added the public will have a chance to comment on the topic before the council moves forward with deciding on what to purchase.

Maki also opened up the discussion to the public, and while there were no comments from anyone in attendance, Randall read a submitted comment from County Attorney Lauri Ketola.

Ketola's letter was in support of the proposal and stated significant value of having the evidence from the body cameras and saving officer's time during trials.

Councilor Chris Swanson said he appreciated the department looking into this and that it is important to have a plan going forward.

"We need to make sure the people (officers) are dealing with are held accountable as well as having accountability on the police's side," he said. "This is just a day and age where that seems to be more and more necessary."

Related Topics: CLOQUETCLOQUET CITY COUNCILGOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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