ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Ramsey County Sheriff's deputies will no longer participate with the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force until local law enforcement will be allowed to wear body cameras when serving on the task force, according to Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.
"The United States Marshals office has been misleading in their public comments in the media," said Fletcher in a statement to FOX 9. "In Minnesota, the Marshals office has refused to allow us to wear body cameras since the advent of the technology and any new policy has not been implemented."
Concerns over lack of footage from the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force have grown following the deadly law enforcement shooting of Winston Smith at a Minneapolis parking garage last week. According to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, a Ramsey County deputy and a Hennepin County deputy on the task force both fired their weapons at Smith, who investigators say also shot his gun during the incident. The BCA revealed the USMS' policy prohibits officers from wearing body cameras while acting as part of the task force.
Currently, the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments do not allow their officers to participate in task forces that don't allow the use of body cameras.
In the statement, Fletcher explained local law enforcement agencies have made regular requests to the U.S. Marshal Service to change the policy as technology has improved over the years, but Fletcher said the USMS continues to respond with "we're working on the problem." Fletcher said Operation Safety Net, a multijurisdictional group of law enforcement agencies in the Twin Cities metro, received this response from federal representatives as recent as May 25.
On Friday, Fletcher received an addendum from the Marshals office to allow the use of body cameras, which he signed and returned under the belief the policy had changed. However, on Monday, Fletcher said he received a voicemail from a USMS representative, stating "it could take a while for this to get approved" and the deputies were still not allowed to use body cameras.
"As a result of her voicemail, I have made the decision that Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputies will not participate with the Marshals Fugitive Task Force until body cameras are actually authorized," read the statement from Sheriff Fletcher.
According to the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office, the deputy assigned to the North Star Fugitive Task Force was issued a body-worn camera, but its use was not allowed under USMS policy. The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office "welcomes the implementation" of a Department of Justice policy announced last year that would allow local law enforcement serving on task forces to use body cameras in certain circumstances. The policy, however, has not fully taken effect in Minnesota.
The BCA continues to investigate Smith's death. There is no squad car footage of the incident. At this time, it's unclear whether the shooting was captured on surveillance video at the parking garage or nearby businesses.