Baltimore County institutes sweeping body camera program
Baltimore County has launched a program that aims to provide 1,435 of the county’s 1,900 officers with body cameras by December 2018.
Beginning with the program’s start in early July, the county plans to have 150 body cameras issued to police officers in a 15 week period, according to local TV station WBALTV.
"We are investing in this program for one simple reason: It will improve public safety," Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said at a news conference, according to the Baltimore Sun. "Cameras will help in multiple ways by enhancing transparency, accountability and trust."
Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson says that the project has been set in motion after 18 months of research, local TV station WBFF reports.
The cameras, which cost about $12 million, are part of an eight-year, $12.5 million contract with Taser International that includes provisions for data storage and Axon Flex cameras, according to the Sun. The county anticipates $1.6 million in yearly operating costs, which revenue generated from Baltimore County speed and red light cameras will pay for, the Sun reports.
“It’s an expensive program, but I think it’s something that we’re going to have to fund,” Baltimore County Councilman David Marks told local TV station WMAR. “Body cameras aren’t going to tell the whole story. [But] they can help tell the story. They can be a piece of the puzzle. I do think they’re an effective tool that we’re going to have to embrace.”
Baltimore County treats body camera footage as a public record and will release it as such, barring certain exemptions, according to the Sun .
However, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has expressed concerns about some of the department’s policies on cameras, the Sun reports. Part of those concerns stem from rules that allow officers and representatives to review footage before issuing statements during an investigation. Another concern involves rules prohibiting the footage from being used for performance reviews.
"Let's remember that policing is a profession in which officers are given a vast amount of authority over the people they are supposed to serve and protect," the attorney, David Rocah, told the Sun. "With that tremendous power comes tremendous responsibility."