About 150 Baltimore City police officers will be wearing body cameras over the next few months as part of a pilot program. The pilot program is designed as a test run to help the department determine which brand of body camera to buy.
The devices can help provide an on-the-record video documentation of police interactions with citizens. With police brutality cases that ran in the face of police narratives as a result of videos recorded by witnesses on cell phones, use of body cameras is seen as increasing police transparency. Freddie Gray’s death is used as an example of a case where body cameras could have helped nationwide, and the Baltimore Police Department has settled numerous brutality cases out of court. Even before Gray died, two cell phone videos emerged last fall that resulted in deeper investigations by police.
At a press conference on Monday, police official Dean Palmere told reporters that the policies governing use of body cameras remains a work in progress. However, since the cameras are still being used during interactions with the public, reporters from the Baltimore Sun and City Paper thought the public has a right to know.
After the reporters pushed to get the policy out in the open, the police department released the policy on Tuesday.
Palmere said the police department’s motto for use of the cameras during interactions with public is, “When in doubt, record it.”
However, there are certain times when the cameras will not be used. According to the policy document, which the Baltimore Sun posted this afternoon, a witness or subject may request that a camera is turned off, and police can also turn off the cameras if they are interviewing a confidential informant. The cameras can also be turned off amid “sensitive circumstances,” such as interviewing sexual assault victims. Officers also don’t have to record during administrative duties.
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