WYOMING, Minn. (FOX 9) - Over the last decade, police departments across the country have moved to add body cameras to their forces in an effort to maintain transparency and community relations.
The technology can often be too expensive for many smaller departments. However, one small city in Minnesota is about to make a leap forward thanks to an act of generosity by a local business owner.
"Our policy essentially states that we want our officers to wear them on every call," said Wyoming, Minnesota Police Chief Paul Hoppe
Chief Hoppe insists body cameras are a game-changer for law enforcement transparency and accountability. He’s been looking to get the technology fully implemented within his small department of 10 officers for years.
But it’s just been too expensive for the Chisago County city of 8,000 that sits right along I-35.
"I think there’s absolutely a demand by the public that we have this technology, not just in big, metro, city departments, but they expect every officer in Minnesota to have this technology available to them," said Chief Hoppe.
Chief Hoppe explained his vision is about to be realized, thanks to the owners of one of Wyoming’s largest and most successful businesses Hallberg Marine, a third-generation family operation where community philanthropy goes hand-and-hand with selling boats.
"I just felt it was an area, maybe we can make the city of Wyoming safer," said Gene Hallberg.
Hallberg and his foundation are donating $21,000 to the police department to launch the body camera program. It comes at a time, during a pandemic, when local government budgets just can't afford to fund a new program like this one.
Gene Hallberg says it was a no-brainer.
"You see so much on TV about, well, the camera wasn’t turned on," he explained. "If the camera would have been on, we could have solved this problem ahead of time. Why wasn’t it turned on? And so, number one, if you don’t have one, you’re not going to turn it on."
This isn’t their first financial donation from the Hallberg family and their foundation. And their contributions go beyond public safety. In fact, they’ve helped three local ice skating rinks buy new Zambonis.
"Life is enjoyable when you can donate and help others," said Hallberg. "Having it all for yourself really is not all that enjoyable."
As for the body cameras, the Wyoming police are currently in a test phase with a model circulating through the department. The city is seeking public input right now on expectations.
If Chief Hoppe can get full council approval in the weeks ahead, he hopes to have every officer in this city outfitted with a chest-worn camera by the end of the year.