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Baltimore County Now

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Keyword: baltimore county police department

bus safety posterSchool Bus Safety Week is October 19 to 23

It’s up to all of us to make sure our children are safe getting on and off the school bus.

October is School Bus Safety month. From October 19 to 23, public safety officials focus on the importance of laws and regulations designed to keep kids who ride buses safe.

The theme of this year’s campaign “Be smart, be seen, I wait in a safe place” addresses the children’s role in staying safe while stressing that the drivers must be vigilant.

Traffic laws require drivers to come to a full stop when a school bus stops with lights flashing and the stop arm extended. Drivers can’t pull ahead until the bus gives the “okay” by cancelling the lights and pulling back the stop arm.

Drivers' Penalties

Although motorists may be on the other side of the street from the bus, they must stop unless there is a physical barrier between the two lanes. Children will cross the street after getting off the bus. The same holds true when children are boarding buses. Children are not paying attention to motorists. They are worried about getting to and on the bus in time. It is the motorist’s responsibility to stop and yield to bus riders.

There are penalties for the drivers who disregard the law and put children at risk. Drivers who pass a school bus while the lights are flashing and the stop arm extended could receive a $570 fine and three points. For motorists who stop and proceed before the bus lights have stopped, the fine is $570 and two points. Drivers who fail to stop and cause an accident may face additional charges.

Observe School Bus Safety Week by stopping when bus lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended. Our children depend on us for their safety.

Louise Rogers-Feher
Public Safety Office of Media and Communications

Deployment Scheduled in July 2017

The Baltimore County Police Department (BCoPD) today begins a program to equip 1,435 officers with body-worn cameras. The first five years of the program will cost $7.1 million.

The first 150 body-worn cameras (BWCs) are scheduled for deployment in July 2016; they will be deployed equally throughout the 10 precincts to officers in a variety of assignments. The remainder is scheduled for deployment in July 2017.

"Body cameras", said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, “have the potential to improve public safety. We expect both officer and citizen behavior to improve.” Reductions in complaints against officers and more efficient, effective prosecutions are other expected benefits, he said.

Kamenetz noted that this issue is “complex operationally and legally, and it requires a great deal of fiscal commitment and a commitment to officer training.”

'Enhancing Accountability, Trust'

Kamenetz and police Chief Jim Johnson jointly decided to implement the BWC program. After months of study, Chief Johnson concluded that the times call for police agencies to use tools with the potential to enhance accountability and strengthen a relationship of trust and understanding with communities.

“While cameras are not a panacea and while they pose significant challenges for police agencies, I believe that this technology is here to stay. We decided to work now to ensure an effective program,” Johnson said.

The most important elements of a healthy police-community relationship, Johnson said, will always be outreach and understanding, the free flow of information and commitment to a skilled and diverse workforce. But he said he believes cameras have a place. “I support cameras as a way to provide clarity and transparency in some controversial situations. The public’s trust is invaluable to us, and cameras are one tool that can help us maintain it.”

Last December, Kamenetz called for a comprehensive study of body-worn cameras for police. Johnson assigned an internal workgroup including BCoPD sworn and professional personnel, State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger, the Office of Information Technology, Sheriff Jay Fisher, and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge Number 4.

After months of study – including input from the NAACP, ACLU, National Alliance on Mental Illness, a representative from the Latino community and other stakeholder groups –  the panel issued a 128-page report to Chief Johnson. The workgroup’s report – which Chief Johnson called “the best body of work I have read on this complicated topic” – recommended additional study rather than implementation of a body camera program at this time.

(The recommendations of the Body-worn Camera Workgroup (PDF) are available in their entirety.)

Program Costs

The cost of establishing the program is $7.1 million.

That includes $1.25 million for the cameras and related equipment and $5.9 million for maintenance and storage. It also includes the cost of hiring at least 21 additional full-time personnel in several departments to manage the program.

The annual cost of running the BWC program is estimated at $1.6 million.

Program Details

BCoPD standard operating procedures for use of the cameras will not be finalized until after the General Assembly session and any subsequent action by the legislature pursuant to the recommendations of  a state commission on body cameras. These state standards likely will apply to all Maryland police agencies that decide to use body cameras.

BCoPD employs about 1,900 officers and is the 21st largest local police department in the U.S.

Officer training will be essential. One of the concerns about body cameras, Kamenetz and Johnson agree, is their potential to produce robotic officers, wary and unwilling to exercise professional judgment or to interact freely.

Three-Phase Implementation

Based on the study and the experiences of other agencies that have begun using body-worn cameras, storage and maintenance of massive amounts of video and handling public information requests are challenges requiring additional human resources. Baltimore County’s three-phase implementation program calls for the hiring of additional IT support, evidence specialists, criminal records processors, forensic specialists, attorneys, training personnel and public information specialists.

Noting that body-worn camera programs remain a work in progress, Johnson said BCoPD will continue to monitor programs in other agencies and to participate in the national conversation on body cameras. BCoPD will adapt its program as best practices and problems evolve.

Public Information Laws

Body camera video will be treated the same as any other public record, subject to release under the Maryland Public Information Act and other relevant laws.

The implementation plan will include public outreach to ensure that citizens are aware that these videos are public records, and that citizens as well as police will be portrayed.

POlice logoNew Approach Emphasizes that Community Relations is Every Officer's Responsibility

Crime prevention, police partnerships, outreach and public safety education to schools, communities and all segments of our society are the responsibility of every single Baltimore County police officer, said Chief Jim Johnson in announcing a departmental reorganization. The reorganization will further enhance and build upon the agency’s long-standing and a very successful community policing program.

In the past, Johnson said the department’s Community Resources Bureau was separate from the Operations Bureau, leading some officers to feel that building community relationships and working with young people was the primary responsibility of the Community Resources Bureau, or the work of outreach teams in individual precincts.

“Especially in today’s environment, this mind set must change in public safety”, Johnson said. “Our effectiveness rests on the confidence of people we serve. It is critical that we enhance programming and build confidence and relationships with our younger citizens, organizations and all communities in our great County. This is every officer’s business. This is every officer’s role and responsibility – from the Chief all the way to the officers and professional staff members of what I believe is the finest police department in America.”

Effective immediately, the Safe Schools Section, which manages the School Resource Officer program and is liaison to Baltimore County Public Schools, will report to the Operations Bureau, Patrol Division. This will provide better clarity of communication, and coordination of investigations, tactics and procedures to further enhance the safety of our students, faculty and staff that work in our exceptional school system.

A new Youth & Community Resources Section will comprise a Counseling Team, Youth Initiatives and a new Community Partnership Team. This Section will become part of the Operations Bureau reporting to the Operations Commander.

Ten officers assigned to the Juvenile Offenders in Need of Supervision (J.O.I.N.S.) will be reassigned from Police Headquarters to the ten precincts county -wide, allowing families and children in the J.O.I.N.S. Program more convenient, closer to home, police visits and interaction, as well as counseling.

Baltimore County’s very successful and valued Auxiliary Police Program, in which volunteers provide traffic control and other basic operational support to sworn officers, will become part of the Operations Bureau, Support Operations Division.

With this reorganization, the agency will operate under two Bureaus, which will no doubt enhance communications, expedite police response and coordination of crime prevention, community policing and outreach, investigation and patrol services, as well as provide the most robust youth, crime prevention, counseling, and education resources available.

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