Baltimore County News
Latest program is part of County Executive Kamenetz’s “Operation Connect” initiative
Towson, MD – For the next three Saturdays, Baltimore County police officers will host youth basketball clinics for children, offering kids the opportunity to sharpen their basketball skills and interact with law enforcement officers in a positive setting.
“In today’s world, it is more important than ever for our young people to see the human side of law enforcement and for officers to interact with kids in a positive setting,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “Chief Johnson and I have talked at length about finding ways to expand our existing outreach efforts and officers’ reach into the community in innovative and non-traditional ways; this is one great example. I am really delighted that Chief Johnson and his team are making Operation Connect a reality.”
The Baltimore County Police Department basketball clinics will run from 9 a.m. to noon on the following Saturdays:
- May 7: Liberty Road Resource Center, 3505 Resource Drive, Randallstown 21133
- May 14: Cockeysville PAL Center, 9836 Greenside Drive, Cockeysville 21030
- May 21: Sollers Point Multi-Purpose Center, 323 Sollers Point Road, Dundalk 21222
“This is really great news,” said 2nd District Council Woman and Council Chair Vicki Almond. “Having our police officers interact with young people all across the county is good for everyone. I am confident that these types of programs improve public safety.”
“I am delighted that County Executive Kamenetz and Chief Johnson are moving forward with efforts to connect police officers with the young people in our community. It is this type of outreach that will make our streets and communities safer,” said Vicar Reginald Price of St. Andrews Lutheran Church of Parkville.
Space is still available in the clinics and parents may download and submit the Basketball Clinic permission slip/waiver (PDF) to register. Free water bottles and snacks will be provided.
Operation Connect is an effort on the part of the county police department to engage county stakeholders in a number of outreach activities. Members of the police department are reaching out through activities like Bike with a Cop, community cleanups, meetings with faith based leaders, participation in community barbecues and many other events. The purpose of the program is to allow community members, particularly young people, to interact with police officers in a positive setting. “Our police officers are safer and our communities are safer when officers and citizens know and trust one another,” said Kamenetz.
“The County Executive has asked us to foster understanding with citizens of all backgrounds, especially those who might not be involved in traditional police community relations groups,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson. “We want our officers to reach out to the people they serve through faith communities and other groups.”
Click the image below to see Officer Don Bridges invite young people in the community to the basketball courts.
School 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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.