Lights, Camera, Action: Talking Bodycams at Winter #MACoCon

During the 2021 MACo Winter Conference, a panel of policing experts discussed a major policy shift requiring body worn cameras on all law enforcement officers throughout Maryland.

Under recently a recently adopted state law, counties and their law enforcement partners will be responsible for both procuring the equipment needed and implementing required policies for this new reality. Storage, redaction, and distribution of the resulting footage will also challenge local resources and require smart planning. Panelists discussed overcoming the above issues as the next step in modern public safety practice.  

Speakers: 

  • Chief Melissa Hyatt, Baltimore County Police Department
  • Chief Russ Hamill, City of Laurel Police Department
  • Chief Amal Awad, Anne Arundel County Police Department    
  • Everett Sesker, Law Enforcement Loss Control Consultant, LGIT 

Moderator:  

  • Randy Guy, Commission President, St. Mary’s County  

President Guy began the proceedings by introducing the topic and individual members of the panel, beginning with Chief Hyatt, who emphasized the need to build trust in communities served. She ran through a series of lessons learned from her career in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, including the former’s implementation of body worn cameras in 2016. Chief Hyatt noted how sentiments have shifted among law enforcement in favor of cameras. Regarding implementation, she suggested the need for thorough training, regular meetings with stakeholders, procuring easy-to-use IT infrastructure, developing policies regarding the use and release of footage, and accounting for the associated costs of cameras.

Chief Hamill discussed the policies and training needed to successfully implement a body worn camera program. He also noted the costs of the program can be difficult to manage, referencing a $28,800 yearly subscription his jurisdiction pays for data storage. Chief Hamill urged caution with the release of footage, which could impact privacy concerns of residents.

Chief Awad contrasted body worn camera implementation in municipalities versus counties, citing differences in available resources and procurement. She noted that counties might invest in costly cloud-based storage options, whereas municipalities are more likely to purchase physical servers. Chief Awad also touched on the physical infrastructure, including charging stations, and personnel, including for PIA and FOIA requests, needed to accommodate cameras.

Finally, Mr. Sesker, a retired officer himself, detailed the story of an officer who was caught in a dangerous situation in which body worn cameras may have assisted him in prosecuting a bad actor. He revealed that officer to be himself in the 1990’s. Mr. Sesker emphasized that body worn cameras come with benefits to law enforcement including training opportunities and increased accountability. He noted LGIT has grants available for body worn camera implementation, as well as training regarding use-of-force, de-escalation, and implicit bias.

More about MACo’s Winter Conference:

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