At this year’s MACo Summer Conference, county officials joined to discuss the many roadblocks and best practices for accommodating body-worn camera footage requests made under the Maryland Public Information Act.
With the passage of 2021’s Maryland Police Accountability Act, county law enforcement agencies must equip their officers with body-worn cameras. As a result, counties must now reckon with countless hours of captured footage and an unprecedented influx of Maryland Public Information Act (PIA) requests to access said footage. Delegate Jazz Lewis opened the session with an overview of his efforts as Chair of the Law Enforcement Body Camera Task Force established during the Maryland General Assembly’s 2020 session. He noted that his bill, House Bill 162, had been intended to ease the burden on counties seeking to establish body-worn camera programs.
After introductions, Assistant Attorney General Klemm took the stage and provided an overview of the PIA and offered some suggestions to the audience regarding how to address cumbersome PIA requests:
Following Assistant AG Klemm, Chief Solicitor Ruley delved further into the issues facing counties handling police-related PIA requests, focusing on the unique circumstances surrounding body-worn camera footage. For example, she pointed to a single police misconduct-related request requiring over 1,300 hours and $700,000 to complete. Likewise, Lt. Clay Safford discussed ongoing issues faced by St. Mary’s County, stating that the Office of the Sheriff has hired a staff member to review footage full-time.
- Hilary Ruley, Chief Solicitor, Baltimore City Law Department
- Lt. Clay Safford, Deputy Sheriff, St. Mary’s County
- Sara Klemm, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Public Information Act Ombudsman
- The Honorable Delegate Jazz Lewis
More about MACo’s Summer Conference: