Balto. Co. plan­ning changes for po­lice

Body cam­eras to be added faster, sex­ual as­sault, other poli­cies to be re­viewed

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Ali­son Kneze­vich

Bal­ti­more County po­lice will roll out their body cam­era pro­gram faster than orig­i­nally planned in the wake of con­fronta­tions that have brought scru­tiny to the de­part­ment.

Un­der a plan an­nounced Wed­nes­day by County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz, all uni­formed of­fi­cers — about 1,435 — will be equipped with the cam­eras by Septem­ber 2017. That’s more than a year ahead of the orig­i­nal sched­ule.

The county also plans an out­side re­view of po­lice re­sponse to sex­ual as­sault, and an eval­u­a­tion of po­lice train­ing in be­hav­ioral health, cul­tural com­pe­tence and de-es­ca­la­tion strate­gies.

Kamenetz an­nounced the changes at a news con­fer­ence in Tow­son with Po­lice Chief Jim John­son; Dr. Gre­gory Wm. Branch, the county’s pub­lic health chief, and lo­cal elected of­fi­cials.

“Govern­ment must do all that it can to min­i­mize sit­u­a­tions of con­flict that put our cit­i­zens and our po­lice of­fi­cers in harm’s way,” Kamenetz said.

The Po­lice De­part­ment be­gan to phase in body cam­eras dur­ing the sum­mer, and 128 of­fi­cers have re­ceived them so far. Of­fi­cials said ac­cel­er­at­ing the pro­gram will cost

“Govern­ment must do all that it can to min­i­mize sit­u­a­tions of con­flict that put our cit­i­zens and our po­lice of­fi­cers in harm’s way.”

roughly $390,000, which in­cludes over­time costs to train the of­fi­cers.

The de­part­ment has drawn scru­tiny in re­cent months over in­ci­dents such as the shoot­ing death Aug. 1 of Kor­ryn Gaines, a 23-year-old Ran­dall­stown woman, by one of its of­fi­cers.

Gaines’ 5-year-old son was also in­jured. Prose­cu­tors con­cluded the shoot­ing was legally jus­ti­fied, but it has prompted ques­tions from ac­tivists across the coun­try and a law­suit from Gaines’ fam­ily.

Ta­won Boyd, 21, died three days after an en­counter with po­lice and emer­gency med­i­cal providers at his Mid­dle River home. His fam­ily said he was in med­i­cal cri­sis. Boyd’s death re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, a spokesman for the state med­i­cal ex­am­iner said.

Po­lice have said there is no body cam­era footage of the Gaines shoot­ing or Boyd’s en­counter with of­fi­cers.

Kamenetz said the county will work with the non­profit Coun­cil of State Gov­ern­ments Jus­tice Cen­ter over the next six months to eval­u­ate po­lice train­ing in be­hav­ioral health re­sponses, de-es­ca­la­tion strate­gies, and cul­tural com­pe­tence.

He said his an­nounce­ment was not in re­sponse to any one par­tic­u­lar case.

“This is an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of events that have oc­curred that al­lowed us to reach this point today,” he said.

At­tor­ney J. Wyn­dal Gordon, who rep­re­sents mem­bers of Gaines’ fam­ily, said he hopes the re­view of po­lice prac­tices leads to change within the de­part­ment, es­pe­cially in help­ing po­lice de-es­ca­late sit­u­a­tions.

“They have some big prob­lems in Bal­ti­more County that have been over­looked be­cause much of the fo­cus has been on Bal­ti­more City,” Gordon said.

County Coun­cil Chair­woman Vicki Al­mond said she be­lieves speed­ing up the body cam­era pro­gram “is one of the best things we can do.”

“Cap­tur­ing the whole story, what hap­pens from be­gin­ning to end, I think is key,” the Reis­ter­stown Demo­crat said. “Any in­ci­dents that hap­pen mov­ing for­ward, we want to be sure that we’re ready and we have th­ese cam­eras on our po­lice of­fi­cers.”

Coun­cil­woman Cathy Bevins, whose district in­cludes the area where Boyd lived, said body cam­era footage could have shed light on that case.

“This is the im­por­tance of hav­ing body cam­eras,” said Bevins, a Demo­crat. “It takes all the ques­tion­ing out of what wit­nesses say, and what po­lice of­fi­cers say.”

The de­part­ment has also faced ques­tions over the num­ber of rape cases that po­lice deemed un­founded, high­lighted by an in­ves­ti­ga­tion pub­lished by Buz­zFeed News in Septem­ber.

State Dels. Steve Laf­ferty and Shelly Het­tle­man wrote to John­son last month to ask for an ex­ter­nal re­view in the way po­lice clas­sify sex­ual as­sault cases.

Un­der the plan an­nounced Wed­nes­day, the Mary­land Coali­tion Against Sex­ual As­sault and re­tired Bal­ti­more County Cir­cuit Judge Bar­bara Howe will re­view poli­cies and pro­ce­dures for how po­lice re­spond to sex­ual as­sault.

And be­gin­ning im­me­di­ately, Kamenetz said, all vic­tims and suspects in sec­ond­de­gree sex­ual as­sault cases will be in­ter­viewed by a de­tec­tive in the sex crimes unit. In the past, some cases were dis­missed by of­fi­cers be­fore they got to that stage.

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz holds a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day with Po­lice Chief Jim John­son, right, and oth­ers.

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