CLOQUET — The Cloquet city council voted unanimously to approve the application for a federal grant worth $38,000 during a meeting on Tuesday, May 3.
The grant would be used over two years and would go toward body-worn cameras for all Cloquet Police Department officers.
Police Chief Derek Randall presented the proposal to council and explained how the grant would work with improvements for the department.
The board vote only approved accepting the grant, as Randall said it was the first step before moving forward with the process.
Randall said, speaking with the sellers of the cameras, that if the department also purchased new stun guns, there would be a 20% bundled discount.
“Tasers are one of the only less lethal tools we have,” he said. “The concern we have is that one of these Tasers goes down in a (less lethal) situation… our next option could possibly be lethal force.”
The stun guns the department currently uses date from 2004, according to Randall, and have been discontinued by the manufacturer.
Randall said the bundled deal would help reduce costs in the future when the department needs to update stun guns.
The five-year total cost for all body cameras and new stun guns is estimated to be $234,000 over five years, with a savings of $94,000.
Randall said the reason for the proposal is to have increased transparency for the department and to meet the new normal for law enforcement to have body cameras.
“It creates challenges when we don’t have anything to confirm or verify our actions or the actions of the public,” he said.
Councilor Elizabeth “Lyz” Jaakola asked how the cost of the project would affect residents.
City Administrator Tim Peterson said the grant would help maintain a low tax increase to fund the project, but for the third to fifth year of the project, it could see a 2-3% increase.
Peterson added that the department’s stun guns need to be upgraded whether or not the council chooses to go ahead with this batch.
Mayor Roger Maki added that the public will have an opportunity to comment on the matter before council moves forward with the purchase decision.
Maki also opened the discussion to the public, and while there were no comments from those present, Randall read a comment submitted by County Attorney Lauri Ketola.
Ketola’s letter supported the proposal and pointed to the significant value of having the evidence from the body cameras and saving the officer time during the trials.
Councilor Chris Swanson said he appreciated the department looking into this issue and that it was important to have a plan moving forward.
“We have to make sure that the people (officers) we deal with are held accountable as well as the accountability of the police,” he said. “It’s just a day and an age where it seems to be more and more necessary.”