Wadena City Council: Body cameras, drone policies receive no public comment

A drone and body-worn cameras are soon to be in use following approved guidelines.

Drones are finding a home in area law enforcement technology upgrades. Forum News Service file photo

A public hearing on the use of body cameras and aerial drones within the city by the Wadena Police Department was held Tuesday, March 9. No one attended to voice concerns or support over the additional technology.

Wadena Chief of Police Naomi Plautz noted that she also received no comments concerning the proposed use of the technology in the community despite seeking comments in various mediums over several weeks. The draft policies were presented and with no comments, the policy will be finalized.

City council members asked several questions of Plautz after asking if there were any comments from the public. Councilman Jesse Gibbs and Mark Lunde asked questions concerning the privacy issues of using an aerial drone.

Drone use

Plautz responded that they must be very careful in how they use the drone. Anyone operating it must be trained and become a certified FAA pilot for drones. Using the drone to view a property or individual cannot be done without a warrant in most cases.

Plautz noted that exceptions would be in matters of life and death or substantial bodily harm, such as finding a missing child or dangerous individual. They cannot simply fly around looking for crimes.


She noted previous uses she has seen include taking a view from above to reconstruct a crash scene or checking for hot spots in a burning building. Plautz noted that the city could use this for other purposes such as checking city utilities or trails where a drone can more quickly view something on city property.

The unmanned aerial vehicle policy states that “absent a warrant or exigent circumstances, operators and observers shall adhere to FAA altitude regulations and shall not intentionally record or transmit images of any location where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g., residence, yard, enclosure). Operators and observers shall take reasonable precautions to avoid inadvertently recording or transmitting images of areas where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Reasonable precautions can include, for example, deactivating or turning imaging devices away from such areas or persons during UAV operations.”

Body camera use

According to the guidelines for use of body cameras, officers are expected to activate their body worn cameras (BWCs) when responding to all calls for service and during all law enforcement-related encounters and activities, including but not limited to pursuits, Terry stops of motorists or pedestrians, arrests, searches, suspect interviews and interrogations, and during any police/citizen contacts that becomes adversarial. However, officers need not activate their cameras when it would be unsafe, impossible, or impractical to do so, but such instances of not recording when otherwise required must be documented as specified. Officers have discretion to record or not record general citizen contacts.

The Portable Recording Devices policy is 19 pages long.

According to MN State Statute, 626.8473, government agencies are obligated to provide an opportunity for public comment before the purchase of the body cameras and aerial drones. Both the city of Wadena and Wadena County found themselves back tracking slightly as they both opened public comment periods after already purchasing the equipment. Wadena County attorney Kyra Ladd said that was a mistake on the county’s part, not something done intentionally. Wadena County has been using the body cameras and an aerial drone for over a year already.

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The county also held their public comment period Tuesday, March 9, with no one attending the public hearing. Wadena County Sheriff's Chief deputy Joe Schoon received two comments from community members; one was in favor of the body worn cameras and both were against the use and purchase of the drone. Schoon said their concerns were the cost and privacy.



Plautz noted that Wadena, Otter Tail, Hubbard and Crow Wing were some regional counties also using drones.

Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in the city of Verndale, Minn., but is bent on making it as country as he can until he returns once more to the farm living he enjoys. Also living the dream are his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at or 218-640-2312.
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