Queen Anne’s deputies to wear body cam­eras

Record Observer - - Front Page - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @mike_k­ibay­times.

CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Sher­iff’s Of­fice has pur­chased body cam­eras for all its deputies to bet­ter hold it and the com­mu­nity ac­count­able for ac­tions taken, Ma­jor Dwayne Board­man told county com­mis­sion­ers dur­ing their June 28 meet­ing.

The equip­ment, pur­chased from TASER In­ter­na­tional, cost $290,012.96 and was paid for in the sher­iff’s FY 2016 bud­get. The pur­chase in­cludes a five-year agree­ment with the com­pany that any changes in tech­nol­ogy or equip­ment in that time frame will be cov­ered by the ini­tial pay­ment.

“We’re not just buy­ing some­thing that’s good only this year,” Sher­iff Gary Hof­mann said. “...We have an agree­ment with them for the next five years [that] they’re go­ing to make sure that ... we’re chang­ing with tech­nol­ogy through the ad­vance­ment of the equip­ment.”

The cam­eras, which can pro­duce var­i­ous lev­els of high qual­ity au­dio and video, can be worn on an of­fi­cer’s lapel, shoul­der or glasses and will send the in­for­ma­tion to a sys­tem that stores the data in the cloud server.

Though the cam­eras will be new to Queen Anne’s County, other East­ern Shore po­lice agen­cies, such as those in Sal­is­bury and Cambridge, are al­ready us­ing them. Board­man said most de­part­ments want some sort of cam­era de­vice but are un­able to pur­chase them due to cost.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment In­sur­ance Trust, the in­sur­ance car­rier for the sher­iff’s of­fice, has rec­om­mended all of its law en­force­ment clients pur­chase and use the cam­eras, Board­man said. LGIT pro­vided a small amount of money to­ward the pur­chase.

Be­fore buy­ing the cam­eras, the of­fice com­pleted a mul­ti­month trial of the prod­uct.

Board­man said the of­fice be­lieves cam­eras will in­crease of­fi­cer safety, al­low for bet­ter doc­u­men­ta­tion of traf­fic vi­o­la­tions, cit­i­zen be­hav­ior will im­prove know­ing they are be­ing recorded as well as will re­duce court time and costs and will help avoid “friv­o­lous law­suits and law­suits in gen­eral.”

“If some­thing comes up good or bad, we’re go­ing to con­tinue to main­tain trans­parency with the com­mu­nity,” Hof­mann said. “This sys­tem can ben­e­fit the law en­force­ment of­fi­cer, and it can ben­e­fit the pub­lic as well.”

In prior years, deputies had cam­eras on the dash­boards of their ve­hi­cles but when the soft­ware crashed and the cam­eras be­came un­us­able, as well as ex­pen­sive to fix, the of­fice dis­con­tin­ued their use.

“We’ve al­ways been on the cut­ting edge of tech­nol­ogy,” Hof­mann said. “We want to main­tain that level of pro­fes­sion­al­ism within the com­mu­nity, and we want to main­tain that level of trust that we’ve worked very had to cre­ate and keep.”

The body cam­eras be­gin record­ing once a deputy dou­ble taps it to ac­ti­vate the de­vice. The sys­tem is set to au­to­mat­i­cally go back 30 sec­onds and will pro­vide video lead­ing up to the ac­ti­va­tion be­cause the cam­era is tech­ni­cally al­ways on, though not ac­tively stream­ing the video. Once a deputy ac­ti­vates the de­vice, both au­dio and video will be recorded.

“Let’s say you see an in­frac­tion in front of you, you can ac­ti­vate it right then. It will go back 30 sec­onds, and it will lead up to what that in­frac­tion was,” Board­man said. “... It will give you that ev­i­dence as far as video, and it will give you au­dio at the time that you ac­ti­vate the de­vice.”

Board­man said the depart­ment is still fi­nal­iz­ing its pol­icy for how to prop­erly man­age and use the equip­ment, but through ad­vice from the depart­ment’s in­sur­ance car­rier’s at­tor­ney and the Chiefs of Po­lice Model Pol­icy for Body Worn Cam­eras, it cre­ated a pol­icy “I think ev­ery­body’s go­ing to be pleased with.”

The pol­icy cov­ers such is­sues as how long video and au­dio will be saved, pro­to­col for who can ac­cess the data as well as records of who viewed the in­for­ma­tion, and what can and can­not be redacted from the videos. Cit­i­zens may ob­tain video footage through a Pub­lic In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest.

Board­man said videos can be redacted to the me­dia or pri­vate cit­i­zens if in­for­ma­tion is caught in the video that vi­o­lates the Health In­sur­ance Porta­bil­ity and Ac­count­abil­ity Act, such as a per­son’s med­i­ca­tion sit­ting on a ta­ble. In­for­ma­tion can be redacted, as well, in cases in­volv­ing juveniles or if the depart­ment does not want to re­lease the per­son’s iden­tity.

Though Board­man said the county does not have many in­ci­dences where these cam­eras would be needed, even­tu­ally a sit­u­a­tion could arise and the use of video footage could be­come use­ful.

“We are so for­tu­nate here in this county com­pared to oth­ers I’ve worked in. There’s still a wide re­spect for law en­force­ment in this county and visa versa, there’s wide re­spect for the cit­i­zen­ship by po­lice in this county by all the po­lice de­part­ments,” Board­man said. “...This is a great place to work and that’s why I think there are fewer in­stances where there may be false al­le­ga­tions out there where you would have them in other ar­eas. How­ever, times are chang­ing slowly, and I’m sure it will catch up to us here.”

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO

The Taser Axon Flex body worn cam­era, which the Queen Anne’s County Of­fice of the Sher­iff re­cently pur­chased, can be worn on an of­fi­cer’s lapel, shoul­der or glasses, Ma­jor Dwayne Board­man told county com­mis­sion­ers dur­ing their June 28 meet­ing.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

Ma­jor Dwayne Board­man, un­der­sh­er­iff for Queen Anne’s County, re­views the of­fice’s pur­chase of body cam­eras be­fore the county com­mis­sion­ers June 28.

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