Officers in Baltimore County may be next to be equipped with the body camera technology. At 2:00 pm on Thursday, September 17, 2015 Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Police Chief Jim Johnson will announce a plan to equip county officers with body cameras. Kamenetz and Johnson were on WYPR Midday with Dan Rodricks this afternoon to discuss the program and the formal announcement to come.
During the interview Kamenetz stated that the initial phase of the body camera program will launch July 1, 2016. Over the course of the year they will study the impact of the program and see where things can improve. Complete deployment of the program is aimed for July 1, 2017. The phase in will occur across all precincts and is expected to cost $7 million over the initial few years.
Kamenetz noted they chose the July 1, 2016 start date to allow time for the General Assembly to address issues regarding the release of recordings to the public through the Maryland Public Information Act. He emphasized privacy and cost concerns with broad public availability of camera footage. He also expressed the need for police department discretion in creating written policies to oversee body camera programs rather than micromanaging by lawmakers. MACo shares these concerns and has voiced them to the General Assembly and to the body camera commission.
Kamenetz and Johnson stated that while officers in the county have a good relationship with the residents, the cameras can be a tool to enhance those relationships and to provide greater transparency and accountability.
However, as noted in The Baltimore Sun, not all in the county all on board with the proposed program. Members of an internal work group issued a report of recommendations and concluded the program should be delayed to allow for more study to address concerns. Others simply opposed the program:
The report, which has not been released to the public, was dated April 2015. Fifteen of the group’s 18 members opposed going forward with a camera program.
“At this time the cost of a … program outweighs the expected benefits,” the group concluded.
Police union officials said they do not support the body camera plan. In a statement, the union said Wednesday that county officers “enjoy a good working relationship with the community we serve.”
“While [body cameras] may be an appropriate and much needed tool in some police agencies, there have been no significant incidents or systematic problems within the department resulting in a call from the community for [body cameras],” Baltimore County F.O.P. Lodge 4 said.