Gun-mounted cameras make their way to Twin Cities metro police departments

Instead of equipping officers with body cameras, the West Hennepin Public Safety Department is mounting cameras on its officers’ guns.

The department announced the rollout of the new technology Thursday. With no buttons to press, the camera automatically starts recording as soon as the gun leaves the holster.

“And it will not turn off while you and I are talking until it is put back into a holster," said Gary Kroells of the West Hennepin Public Safety Department.

In front of the trigger is a tiny camera no bigger than a roll of pennies. 

"Our officers don’t draw their weapon often, but when they do, we want to capture why and what they’re using their weapon for," Kroells said.

The West Hennepin Public Safety Department has never had an officer-involved shooting, but they want to be ready in case they ever do.

"We’re learning from history, we’re watching what’s happening out there and we feel this is a good solution for us, and it’s affordable," said Kroells.

The weapon-mounted cameras are half the price of a body camera, and require far less data storage than body cameras.

"Seeing what happened in Ferguson, [Missouri] - there was conflicting witness reports, people didn’t know what happened," said Brian Hedeen, the CEO of Viridian, which designed the technology. "What we didn’t know at the time was there would be a high profile shooting every few months."

Viridian makes the weapon-mounted camera at their headquarters in Maple Plain, Minn. 

"It’s a make sense product that really fills a need in the community today," said Hedeen.

The company said there are 250 law enforcement agencies across the country that are currently testing the technology. 

West Hennepin is the second department to fully implement the cameras. Farmington Police started using them earlier this summer.

"We want to be on that cutting edge of technology, but hope we never use it," Kroells said.