Agencies Need Time For Body-Worn Cameras, Laws

MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson today testified before the House Judiciary Committee in opposition to HB 187 Public Safety – Law Enforcement – Body-Worn Cameras. This bill requires all law enforcement agencies, including those run by counties, to equip officers with body-worn cameras by October 1st of this year.

Mr. Sanderson offered his view that another bill, requiring cameras but after a certain time period, would allow Maryland a window to address its still-deficient Public Information Act (and how it treats footage that may contain victims, children, and witnesses), and to potentially develop a shared offering for professional storage and redaction of the footage.

From the MACo Testimony:

First, Maryland’s Public Information Act considered footage from body worn cameras to be a “document” open to public inspection. The proper redaction of footage is a far more laborious process than that for paper or electronic records. And this redaction – often required to preserve the privacy of victims, children, or informants – is of utmost importance. Without clearer, and balanced, guidance to custodians, the management of footage may prove to be a crippling responsibility.

Second, the storage and maintenance of footage from cameras is itself a daunting challenge. Requiring each agency to effectively launch its own self-contained program will surely yield unreasonable overhead costs. A state-led effort to offer an opt-in, collaborative means to manage this footage is a practical necessity.

Follow MACo’s advocacy efforts during the 2021 legislative session on MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.