County police body cam roll-out now complete
Every uniformed police officer in Baltimore County is now equipped with a bodyworn camera. A program aiming to equip every Baltimore County Police Department (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,” said Officer Jennifer
Peach. “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 2015 and deployment officially began in July 2016.
In October of last year, Kamenetz announced the acceleration of the program, moving 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’ 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 prov- en 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 percent 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 typically 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.baltimorecountymd. gov/ Agencies/ police/bodycameras.
The body-worn camera program was announced in September 2015.
Deployment of the BCoPD body-worn camera program officially began in July 2016.