by Trevor Hass
Big Lake Chief of Police Joel Scharf stood in front of a packed hall at The Friendly Buffalo last Wednesday at the 20th annual Senior Day Out.
There were several guest speakers and presentations throughout the day, and his was one, among others, that drew a good amount of attention and interest.
Scharf discussed the potential implementation of body cameras for police officers. Though the decision to have officers wear these cameras is not final throughout Sherburne County yet, the plan is to have officers in Big Lake wear them consistently by the end of the month. Scharf and Sherburne County Sheriff Joel Brott agreed the cameras are starting to gain traction.
If Big Lake latches onto steadily using these cameras, that could potentially lead to other cities in the area, such as Elk River, adopting the idea as well.
“I think it’s an incredible tool for the protection of our staff, which is primary in looking out for their well-being,” Scharf said.
Scharf emphasized how we live in an era where if an incident didn’t happen on video or camera, it didn’t happen at all. Oftentimes, when he’s working, people around him will take video. Though these videos can be helpful, those spectators tend to not be able to capture the whole scene on camera because they arrive too late or leave too early.
If officers were to wear these body cameras on their chests, Scharf said, they would capture the action from start to finish and not have to worry about missing certain parts. The cameras would also help economically, Scharf said, in terms of protecting officers from litigation and false complaints. Additionally, he said, the cameras would help ensure victims get their full story portrayed.
“To me, it’s a win all around,” Scharf said. “It’s scary technology for everybody, because it’s something really new.”
Scharf understands these changes may take time as people find issues with the advancements. Becker already uses body cameras, and other towns around Minnesota have adopted the idea as well. Brott added that one key component of whether these cameras officially come to all of Sherburne County will be navigating the legislation.
“We’re doing some research ourselves,” Brott said. “We’ve taken an internal survey, but we haven’t drawn any conclusions yet. We’re considering them.”
Body cameras were just one part of a day filled with discussion, though. Deputy Roxanne Schreder said the event typically happens every May.
They discussed cybernation, living at home, prescription medication, a home paramedic program, other law enforcement updates and emergency response units.
“It’s a wonderful event,” Brott said. “We always enjoy having our seniors in and having the different vendors in.”