ST. CLOUD -- A pilot project to put body cameras on Stearns County Jail staff has been successful, so Sheriff Steve Soyka is looking to expand the program.

Soyka says they had plans all along to add body cameras to their force, long before the George Floyd death in Minneapolis.

The sheriff says they have been taking a slow and measured approach because it is expensive and they want to get it right...

We did start this about two years ago, setting money aside, and working with our IT department in the county and moving toward this.  We are now at the point where we are going to start what I call another pilot project with our campus deputies.  There are 10 of them so we're starting kind of small.

Campus deputies are the deputies who guard the courthouse, administration, and west side service center.

Soyka says the jail staff had to adjust to the new technology, but it's been a good tool for them...

If there's an inmate claim of abuse or a lack of medical treatment that they were being ignored or something, we can go back and review those videos and kind of show the truth. It's worked out quite well for us. I think the staff was a little bit apprehensive at first, but they've all gotten accustomed to it, and probably saved some of them from false allegations made by inmates in the past couple of years.

Tuesday, Stearns County commissioners are expected to set a public hearing for October 20th before a second pilot group would get the cameras.

The sheriff says the goal is to get all 70 officers in the patrol division the cameras sometime in 2022. The timeline is dependent on funding.

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