Baltimore County Now
New 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.
Crews Installing Major Water Line
Beginning this evening, Towsontown Boulevard between York Road and Virginia Avenue will be closed for one week while utility crews install a major water line through Towson. The closures will be between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
East-bound traffic will be detoured onto York Road, Chesapeake Avenue, and Virginia Avenue. West-bound traffic will be detoured to Virginia Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and York.
Police Training Commission to Develop Policy and Procedures
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz expressed his appreciation to Governor Larry Hogan for signing SB 482/HB 533, which was sponsored on behalf of the Kamenetz Administration to clarify issues relating to the County’s proposed use of cameras on police officers and Taser weapons.
“Under Maryland’s existing wiretap law,” said Kamenetz, “there was some concern whether our cameras could record audio without being in conflict of the state’s two-party consent rule. With this Bill, it clarifies that a police officer may utilize both video and audio in the course of official police duties. While there are still some details to be resolved as a result of late amendments to the Bill, we appreciate that the Governor signed this important measure into law. We are grateful as well to our County delegation members, and particularly Delegate Charles Sydnor and Senator Kathy Klausmeier for sponsoring this bill on our behalf.”
Recent Use of Taser Cameras
Baltimore County Police officers recently began using Tasers equipped with cameras that automatically record all events from the moment the Taser is removed from its case. A departmental committee is currently finalizing a study of the complex issues surrounding implementation of police body electronic devices. Kamenetz has previously indicated his support of the use of body cameras, pending receipt of the police department report, which is due in the next ninety days.
The amendments to the Bill signed by Governor Hogan require the Police Training Commission to develop a policy and procedures for the issuance and use of body-worn cameras by law enforcement officers, and also establishes a commission to study and make recommendations.
Protecting the Rights of Citizens and Officers
“This Bill is necessary to carve out an exception to the two-party consent law in Maryland, said Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson. “This will allow officers to record their interactions with the public during their official duties if Baltimore County were to decide to use the body camera.”
“We’re pleased this piece of legislation passed and was signed into law because it allows us to at least examine what role video and audio recordings could have in Baltimore County,” said Baltimore County States Attorney Scott Shellenberger.
“Given the current events that have taken place all across the country, and particularly in Maryland, I can think of no better time than now to implement the use of video and audio devices by our law enforcement officers to aid in ensuring that our officers and citizens’ rights are protected,” said Baltimore County Delegate Charles Sydnor of District 44B.