Body Camera Commission Begins Work on Developing Best Practices

The Commission Regarding the Implementation and Use of Body Cameras by Law Enforcement Officers held its first meeting Tuesday, August 4, 2015 in Annapolis. The Commission is charged with studying and making recommendations to the Maryland Police Training Commission (MPTC) and the General Assembly on the best practices for the use of body cameras by a law enforcement officer by October 1, 2015.

The 20 member commission is chaired by Retired U.S. District Court Judge Frederic N. Smalkin and staffed by The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. Commission members include Delegate Charles E. Sydnor and Senator Victor Ramierz as well as representatives from the Public Defender, Attorney General, ACLU, NAACP, State Prosecutors, advocate groups and various police departments across the state.

Rather than completely re-invent the wheel, commission members are tasked with spending the next few weeks reviewing best practices and reports previously generated from other commissions and interests groups around the country in order to help develop an approached tailored for Maryland. The Chairman dubbed this a “Goldilocks” approach to finding a one-size-fits-all policy that balances the needs and constraints of the diverse police forces across the state.

While commission will grapple with challenging issues such as when should the cameras be turned on or off and how to keep policies flexible as this emerging technology continues to develop, one area the commission will not touch is privacy rights and access to public records. This was an important issue MACo testified on during legislative session. The Chairman noted that the Maryland Public Information Act governs public disclosure, and camera footage is considered a public record under the act. Changes to the law is outside the scope of the commission’s powers and would require an act of the legislature.

An interactive website is being developed to house a working document of best practice and to allow commission members to submit and share electronic comments. It is anticipated there will be a component to allow public input. The commission will reconvene next month for members to discuss the electronically submitted comments and vote on the proposed best practices recommendations.

The next meeting for the commission is scheduled for Tuesday, September 1 at 10:00 a.m in the Joint Hearing Room of the Legislative Services Building in Annapolis.

For more information visit the commission’s website.

Additional Coverage:

State Begins Drafting Rules for Police Body Cameras (The Baltimore Sun)

Committee Searches for ‘Goldilocks’ Body Camera Policy (The Daily Record)

Police body camera programs will be discussed at the MACo Summer Conference on a panel entitled “Body Cameras: Justice Through the Lens”. The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 12-15 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s conference theme is “Energize. Mobilize. Capitalize.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:

Questions? Contact Meetings & Events Director Virginia White.