Baltimore County News
Show highlights police body cameras, public works, and Holidays at Hampton
The latest edition of Baltimore County’s half-hour cable television public affairs show, “Hello Baltimore County,” focuses on the Police Department's body cameras program, Department of Public Works operations and holiday events at the Hampton National Historic Site in Towson.
Body Cameras – Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger offers his perspective as the County’s head prosecutor.
ICYMI – In case you missed it, we review some recent headlines from your County government.
In the Trenches Every Day – Public Works Director Steve Walsh shares some surprising stats on the work DPW does to keep our daily lives on track.
Holidays at Hampton – Find out what the Hampton National Historic Site has in store to ring in the Yuletide season.
To view streaming video of the show, go to the Hello Baltimore County page at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Videos/hellobaltimorecounty.html . Click on the menu icon in the upper left of the video screen to select an individual segment.
In addition to online access, the program runs several times per week on Cable Channel 25, in Baltimore County, at the following times:
Mondays: 1:30 p.m., 6 p.m., 10 p.m.
Tuesdays: 12 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 9 p.m.
Wednesdays: 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., 10 p.m.
Thursdays: 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 8 p.m.
Fridays: 11 a.m., 6 p.m.
Saturdays: 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.
Sundays: 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m., 10:30 p.m.
Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz issued the following statement in response to last night’s attack on police officers in Dallas and the fatal police shootings of African American men in Baton Rouge and Minnesota:
We all woke up to a nightmare this morning. Following the tragic killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, today we mourn the heinous attack on police in Dallas last night that left five officers dead and other victims injured. What began as a peaceful protest ended as yet another mass shooting in America and the deadliest attack on law enforcement since 9-11.
Given the tragic events of the last 72 hours – but also of the past few years – it is clear that we find ourselves at a perilous convergence of gun violence and severe tension between police and communities.
We send our heartfelt prayers to the Dallas police family in this time of tragic loss. We must reaffirm our support for officers who bravely place their lives at risk every day.
We must also acknowledge that African Americans face real adversity and are speaking out for their families and loved ones. We must work to build trust and positive relationships between law enforcement and the people they have sworn to protect.
Each of us has a part to play in bringing about this healing. We must approach our everyday lives with a commitment to cultivating understanding in our communities, especially those with whom we disagree. We must continue to invest in the kind of social and economic opportunities that help us rise together.
This is the work ahead. Let's begin.
Program Begins July 6
The Baltimore County Police Department's body-worn camera program is set to begin Wednesday, July 6. The first 10 cameras will be deployed that day to one officer in each of the county's 10 precincts. After that, BCoPD will train 10 officers a week for 15 weeks, until 150 cameras are deployed. These 150 cameras will be distributed throughout the 10 precincts and in other units where the Chief of Police has deemed camera use appropriate. This comprises the first phase of BCoPD's body camera initiative.
The second and final phase of the program, involving 1,285 cameras, is scheduled to begin in July 2017. The program will be fully phased in by December 2018. When complete, 1,435 of the county's 1,900 police officers will wear cameras.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Chief Jim Johnson, along with Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger, conducted a press briefing this afternoon at the Public Safety Building in Towson providing details about how the cameras will be used, how footage will be managed, limitations of BWCs and the anticipated benefits.
"We're investing in this program for one reason," Kamenetz said. "We believe it will improve public safety by enhancing transparency, by reducing complaints against officers, by improving behavior of all parties involved in police activity and by making prosecutions more effective and efficient."
Regarding prosecutions, Shellenberger said footage from citizen-operated and surveillance cameras already plays an important role in prosecutions; BWC footage – which shows police activity from the officer's perspective – promises to be another valuable prosecutorial tool.
At today's briefing, Chief Johnson highlighted the most important components of the body camera Use Policy.
"My biggest concern was the potential for the cameras to strip officers of their autonomy," Johnson said, turning officers into robotic enforcers of the law. "This policy is specifically designed to preserve the autonomy and discretion of the police officer."
Key points in the Use Policy:
- Officers assigned body cameras will activate them as soon as possible unless it is unsafe, impractical or impossible to do so.
- Officers have discretion to activate the camera during any legitimate law enforcement activity if they believe recording may be appropriate. They have discretion to de-activate the camera in places or situations where there’s a heightened expectation of privacy (e.g., locker rooms or rest rooms). They also have the discretion to de-activate in order to secure statements from witnesses and victims.
- Officers will notify people as soon as possible that they are being recorded unless it’s unsafe, impractical or impossible to do so. Civilians cannot choose whether or not they are recorded.
- Retention periods for footage depend on the type of incident. For the least serious incidents, the retention period is 18 months. For the most serious felonies, the footage is kept permanently.
- BWC footage is a public record subject to release under the Maryland Public Information Act and other relevant laws to the public, including media. Baltimore County will treat requests for footage the same as requests for any other police record. The same exceptions apply. Footage of incidents in which there is a compelling public interest may be posted to official Police Department platforms.
Johnson, who has been a law enforcement officer for nearly 40 years, called development of a body-worn camera program "the most challenging project I've ever been involved with. Cameras are part of our world. It's the right time for Baltimore County Police to develop consistent policies, procedures and practices for the use of cameras as a tool to enhance public safety. I'm confident our program will accomplish that."
An eight-year, $12.5 million contract with Taser International, Inc. includes purchase of the Axon Flex camera (BCoPD offers officers a choice of camera mounts), maintenance, unlimited data storage, licenses and other expenses. These costs will be paid with revenue from the County's speed camera program.
When fully implemented in FY2019, the ongoing annual maintenance cost of the cameras will be an estimated $1.6 million. The speed camera program will cover the cost of Police personnel needed to run the program – about $1.1 million. The remaining $500,000 of the personnel cost will be covered by the Office of Information Technology and the State's Attorney's Office.
Revised September 26, 2016