BCoPD body-worn cam­era pro­gram com­pleted on time

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By: GIANNA DECARLO gde­carlo@ches­pub.com

Ev­ery uni­formed po­lice of­fi­cer in Bal­ti­more County is now equipped with a body-worn cam­era. A pro­gram aim­ing to equip ev­ery BCoPD of­fi­cer with a cam­era is at “full de­ploy­ment” and is “on time and within bud­get” said Bal­ti­more County Ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Kamenetz.

Ap­prox­i­mately 1,900 of­fi­cers across 10 precincts have the cam­eras, which will be used to record footage of com­mu­nity-po­lice in­ter­ac­tions and con­trib­ute to the res­o­lu­tion of in­ci­dents and the com­ple­tion of crim­i­nal cases.

“BWCs [body-work cam­eras] are a valu­able tool for our agency. They cap­ture record­ings of of­fi­cer-cit­i­zen in­ter­ac­tions from rou­tine cases to crit­i­cal in­ci­dents. We have the ben­e­fit of be­ing able to re­view our ac­tions as well as share our ac­tions with oth­ers when ap­pro­pri­ate,” Of­fi­cer Jen­nifer Peach with the Balti- more County Po­lice Depart­ment. “BWCs are a great tool for law en­force­ment to find where we can do bet­ter and to show­case the good work that we do.”

The body-worn cam­era pro­gram was an­nounced in Septem­ber of 2015 and de­ploy­ment of­fi­cially be­gan in July of 2016.

In Oc­to­ber of last year, Kamenetz an­nounced the ac­cel­er­a­tion of the pro­gram, mov- ing their goal de­ploy­ment up four­teen months by in­creas­ing over­time ex­penses to triple the rate of train­ing.

He said speed­ing up the pro­gram was a de­ci­sion made based on a num­ber of in­ci­dents in­volv­ing the of­fi­cers’ over-use of force, in­clud­ing the Septem­ber 2016 death of 21-year-old Es­sex res­i­dent Ta­won Boyd fol­low­ing a po­lice-in­volved con­fronta­tion.

“Wait­ing wasn’t a good op­tion be­cause th­ese cam­eras are such a valu­able tool in strength­en­ing the re­la­tion­ship of trust and un­der­stand­ing with the com­mu­nity. By ob­jec­tively cap­tur­ing the ac­tions of of­fi­cers in the field, they im­prove trans­parency and help re­duce com­plaints against of­fi­cers and fa­cil­i­tate more ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive pros­e­cu­tions,” Kamenetz said. “Our po­lice and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy pro­fes­sion­als im­ple­mented this im­por­tant trans­parency ini­tia­tive in a thor­ough and ex­pe­dited man­ner.”

Kamenetz said that over the past two years the pro­gram had been mod­i­fied based on feed­backs and con­ver­sa­tions with a va­ri­ety of or­ga­ni­za­tions such as the NAACP, the ACLU, and the Na­tional Al­liance on Men­tal Ill­ness.

“The body-worn cam­era pro­gram has al­ready proven help­ful in a num­ber of ar­rests and pros­e­cu­tions, and as we move for­ward we are com­mit­ted to adapt­ing our pro­gram as best prac­tices and new is­sues may evolve,” said Po­lice Chief Ter­rence B. Sheri­dan.

The first five years of the pro­gram will cost $7.1 mil­lion. That in­cludes $1.25 mil­lion for the cam­eras and re­lated equip­ment and $5.9 mil­lion for main­te­nance and stor­age. The an­nual cost of run­ning the BWC pro­gram is es­ti­mated at $1.6 mil­lion, in­clud­ing on­go­ing of­fi­cer train­ing and the cost of hir­ing at least 21 ad­di­tional full-time per­son­nel in sev­eral de­part­ments to man­age the pro­gram. Most of this cost will be paid for by the County’s speed cam­era pro­gram.

“It ab­so­lutely is chang­ing the face of polic­ing in Bal­ti­more County, and frankly, in 95% of the cases, it’s not only help­ing me pros­e­cute peo­ple but it’s help­ing the po­lice of­fi­cers too,” said Bal­ti­more County State’s At­tor­ney Scott Shel­len­berger in May of this year dur­ing a com­mu­nity meet­ing in Es­sex.

The body cam­eras are turned on dur­ing all en­force­ment ac­tions and the of­fi­cer must an­nounce they are film­ing when they ar­rive at the scene.

Un­less re­quested by the vic­tim at the scene of a crime, the cam­era should not be turned off un­til en­force­ment is over or the of­fi­cer gets per­mis­sion from a su­per­vi­sor.

“Some peo­ple are wel­com­ing of the cam­era, while oth­ers are not, but the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple seem un­af­fected by it. We typi- cally re­spond to help ci­ti­zens in need, and that re­mains the fo­cus of our in­ter­ac­tions,” said Peach.

Ev­ery video is held in a data­base for a min­i­mum of 18 months.

The videos recorded by the cam­eras are pub­lic record un­der the Mary­land Pub­lic In­for­ma­tion Act.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­lease from the County Ex­ec­u­tive of­fice, the County has pro­cessed more than 250,000 record­ings in­clud­ing 45,000 hours of video and has trans­ferred more than 79,000 files to the States At­tor­ney’s Of­fice (67,000 videos and 11,800 pho­to­graphs) since 2015.

Bal­ti­more County’s im­ple­men­ta­tion pro­gram in­cluded the hir­ing of ad­di­tional IT sup­port staff, ev­i­dence spe­cial­ists, crim­i­nal records pro­ces­sors, foren­sic spe­cial­ists, at­tor­neys, train­ing per­son­nel and pub­lic in­for­ma­tion spe­cial­ists.

For more in­for­ma­tion on to body-worn cam­era pro­gram, visit www.bal­ti­more­coun-tymd.gov/Agen­cies/po­lice/body­cam­eras.

De­ploy­ment of the BCoPD body-worn cam­era pro­gram of­fi­cially be­gan in July 2016.

COURTESY BCOPD

The body-worn cam­era pro­gram was an­nounced in Septem­ber 2015.

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