As protests against police brutality and racial injustice continue across the United States, Anne Arundel County officials are pushing to fund body-worn cameras for police officers.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman on Thursday announced that he is submitting amendments to the county’s proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year to fund body-worn cameras for the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
Pittman said he did not include funding for the cameras in his budget proposal that was introduced May 1 because the coronavirus pandemic caused a $63 million loss to the county’s revenue projections.
County officials originally estimated that the body-worn cameras would cost between $4-5 million. However, they were able to reduce that estimate to below $3 million per year over a five-year contract.
In addition to paying for body-worn cameras for all Anne Arundel County police officers, the amendment would also fund new positions within the police department and the State’s Attorney’s Office “to administer the program, review footage, and provide technical support,” according to a news release.
Protesters nationwide have called for more reforms to policing following the May 25 death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, who was killed when a white officer, Derek Chauvin, pinned Floyd to the ground for more than eight minutes using his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Chauvin has been charged with with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence.
The three other officers who were at the scene–Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane–were also charged with aiding and abetting murder.
Many jurisdictions across Maryland have held protests, including a protest outside of the Anne Arundel County Police Department headquarters in Millersville on Wednesday and in Annapolis on Tuesday.
Pittman said that both police officers and the civilians with whom they interact would benefit from the increased transparency that the cameras would provide.
“I don’t know what it feels like to dread an interaction with police,” he said in a statement. “But residents of our county who experience that fear tell me that the transparency offered by cameras can help. I also don’t know the anxiety that our officers experience when working to prevent violence, sometimes through the use of force. They tell me that the transparency offered by cameras can help.”
A state police report found that Anne Arundel County had the most instances of bias and hate crimes out of all of Maryland’s jurisdictions, the Capital Gazette reported.
The amendment would still need to be approved by the Anne Arundel County Council, but multiple members have already expressed support for funding body-worn cameras for police officers.
County Council Chair Allison Pickard, who represents District 2, said she was encouraged by the effort.
“We can all be proud of this collaborative effort by the Administration, the County Council, the Police Department, and our community,” Pickard said in a statement. “It gives me hope when we all come together for a common purpose.”
Councilmember Jessica Haire, who represents District 7, also voiced her support for the program, particularly in the wake of Floyd’s death.
“The senseless death of George Floyd spotlights the risks and realities faced by black communities,” Haire said in a statement. “Body-worn cameras will provide transparency and accountability w”ile helping grow the relationship between our county officers and communities.”
Police Chief Timothy Altomare also backed the initiative.
“This is the right thing to do,” Altomare said in a statement. “Your police department supports any technology that invests in public trust. The addition of body worn cameras is an opportunity to show the community and nation who we are as police officers entrusted with the safety of our residents, visitors, and everyone in our community.”