More than 1,400 police officers in Baltimore County are now outfitted with body-worn cameras.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s office announced yesterday that the county’s body cam program has now been fully rolled out. His administration originally planned to have 1,435 officers equipped with the devices by 2018, but last year former Police Chief Jim Johnson and Kamenetz accelerated deployment following a series of controversial incidents involving police. Among them: Korryn Gaines’ killing, Tawon Boyd’s death following a violent arrest and Buzzfeed’s damning investigation of the department’s handling of sexual assault cases.
The newer deadline for completion was September of this year. The department began deploying them in July 2016.
“Our police and information technology professionals implemented this important transparency initiative in a thorough and expedited manner,” Kamenetz said in a statement.
FOP Lodge 4 – the county’s police union – and State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger and County Sheriff R. Ray Fisher made “concerted efforts” to implement the cameras, Kamenetz said. He also thanked the NAACP, ACLU, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Latino community leaders “and other community groups” for their input.
County Police Chief James Sheridan, who replaced Johnson in January, said in a statement that the cameras have already helped with arrests and successful prosecutions.
The program will cost $7.1 million over the first five years, including $1.25 million for the body cams and related equipment and $5.9 million for maintenance and storage. Additionally, operating the program will cost $1.6 million, equal to less than 1 percent of the department’s fiscal 2017 budget. The latter figure covers ongoing officer training and 21 new hires to help manage the program.
Axon, formerly called Taser International, has an eight-year, $12.5 million contract with the county to provide the devices.
So far, Baltimore County has processed more than 250,000 recordings and 45,000 hours of video. More than 79,000 files have been transferred to the States Attorney’s Office.
Like all public records, body camera footage can be requested under the Maryland Public Information Act, except for when it’s part of an ongoing investigation or a case with pending prosecution. The MPIA also lists some other exceptions.
County officers should be able to learn from some controversies in the city emanating from body-worn camera footage. So far this year, footage that appears to show city officers allegedly planting drugs on suspects or trying to “recreate” evidence discovery has led prosecutors to drop hundreds of cases. City Police Chief Kevin Davis has attributed at least two of the incidents to “growing pains” associated with using the cameras.
The Baltimore Police Department says it’ll be finished with deploying body cameras in 2018.