Howard County Council Funds New Body Camera Program

Yesterday, the Howard County Council approved $476,969 in funding to its police department, sheriff’s office, and State’s Attorney’s Office for a new body-worn camera program. The funding measure, which includes an amendment requiring regular reporting, was approved in a 4-1 vote.

As a part of the recently passed Maryland Police Accountability Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 71), certain law enforcement agencies must require the use of body-worn cameras by July 1, 2023. Included in the bill are the Department of State Police (DSP), the Anne Arundel County Police Department, the Howard County Police Department, and the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. MACo had previously issued a statement, in tandem with the Maryland Municipal League (MML), expressing concern over costs associated with body-worn cameras, specifically regarding “proper storage and staff resources for necessary redactions of the audio and video footage.”

As the Baltimore Sun reports, Howard County has invested considerable resources into its program:

The county’s police body-worn camera program is scheduled to receive roughly $1.6 million of the county’s $63.2 million of the federal American Rescue Plan funds on Tuesday. This money, combined with $1 million in preliminary funding for equipment and licensing that was set aside during the fiscal 2022 budget process, will go to supporting the program.

At a news conference in August, [Howard] County Executive Calvin Ball said the $3.1 million would be used to hire 26 “essential positions” across the county police department, the state’s attorney office and the sheriff’s department; purchase 600 cameras for 300 uniformed police officers that have “direct and regular contact” with the public; expand storage capacity and acquire the necessary software; and procure additional equipment for the deputies in the sheriff’s department.

According to County Executive Ball, the body camera program is anticipated to start in May 2022.

Read the full Baltimore Sun article.