The Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office is Launching a Body-Worn Camera Pilot Program for agency personnel. Body-worn cameras are small video and audio recording devices that can be worn on the body of first responders to record interactions with the public.
According to a Wicomico Sheriff’s Office press release:
This program is guided by a policy that incorporates the best practices of the departments around the state that are successfully utilizing this tool. The objectives of body-worn cameras are to enhance deputy safety, facilitate evidentiary integrity, acquire audio and visual information, enhance courtroom testimony proceedings and assist with internal inquiries. Body-worn Cameras may also be useful in capturing events such as demonstrations and civil disorder and may be utilized to provide impartial basis for self-critiques, field evaluations and recruit deputy training.
In 2015, the Maryland General Assembly enacted legislation to permit first responders to develop and implement Body-Worn Camera Pilot Programs. Since that time, questions have been raised about how body-worn camera footage should be treated under Maryland’s Public Information Act (PIA).
The PIA was largely created to handle paper documents and only recently updated to better handle static electronic records. Body-worn cameras raise a number of privacy and transparency concerns for state and local governments. In order to address these concerns, MACo has adopted aligning public access laws with modern technologies as one of four 2018 Legislative Initiatives.
Align Public Access Laws with Modern Technologies
Maryland’s Public Information Act creates a balanced framework for guaranteeing public access to open information, while protecting sensitive and private material. The rapid ascension of new technologies has strained the implementation and effect of these laws – potentially chilling their otherwise beneficial use. Maryland should clarify and reframe its Public Information Act to better accommodate citizen electronic engagement, personal surveillance footage from first responders and other county officials, and the release of sensitive personal information.
Click here to learn more about MACo’s 2018 Legislative Initiatives.
Aligning public access laws with modern technologies will be a topic of discussion at the MACo Winter Conference.
Learn more about MACo’s 2017 Winter Conference: