Baltimore City Council Proposes Body Cameras for Cops

In light of several high-profile misconduct allegations, Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and Councilman Warren Branch introduced legislation that would require every Baltimore City police officer to wear a body camera. As reported in The Baltimore Sun:

Much of the City Council praised the proposal for body cameras — which are used nationally in at least 63 departments — and the 11 other members present at Monday night’s meeting quickly signed on as co-sponsors. But Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake criticized the bill as a “piecemeal approach to a comprehensive and complex problem” of improper police conduct.

The bill, which is less than two pages long, would allow the Police Department to phase in the cameras over a year. But it does not address the cost of purchasing the cameras, privacy concerns when it comes to recording people in or out of their homes, and details of implementation, the mayor said.

Rawlings-Blake said she is not against the idea but thinks the issue needs more study. The mayor’s office estimates it could cost up to $10 million to comply with the bill.

The mayor said last week she has ordered Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts to create a “comprehensive plan” to cut down on police brutality, including possible changes to the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights. She asked council members to wait until that plan is complete before moving forward with Branch and Young’s legislation.

“I’ve said over and over that the body cameras are something we should look into,” Rawlings-Blake told council members during a City Hall lunch Monday. “What I’ve asked for is a comprehensive set of reforms to address the issue of police misconduct and brutality. The police commissioner and his team are working on those reforms.”

While many support the idea of body cameras on officers the article noted that some, including representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and Police Executive Research Forum, urged caution in moving forward to ensure proper implementation.

The city has approximately 2,800 sworn officers. The bill, if passed, would be phased in within a year.

For more information please read the full article in The Baltimore Sun and additional coverage in The Baltimore Business Journal.