Baltimore County News
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.
Promotions Accompany Reorganization of Operations Bureau
Police Chief Jim Johnson has promoted two new colonels, one to supervise the Criminal Investigations Bureau and another to supervise the Operations Bureau.
The promotions accompany a reorganization of the Police Department's existing Operations Bureau, currently comprising Patrol, the Criminal Investigations Division and Support Operations, an 1,800-member bureau. The new structure approved last week by Chief Johnson will produce two commands of more manageable size, a change designed to improve efficiency and quality of supervision.
Evan M. Cohen, Criminal Investigations Bureau
Evan M. Cohen, 56, will serve as the Colonel in charge of the Criminal Investigations Bureau, supervising the Baltimore County Police Department (BCoPD) sections that investigate the most serious crimes. Cohen currently serves as the Major in charge of CID, a command to which he was appointed in 2012. A 33-year veteran of BCoPD, his career includes extensive command experience in both Patrol and Operations, as well as Internal Affairs and Human Resources.
Alexander D. Jones, Operations Bureau
Alexander D. Jones, 46, will serve as the Colonel in charge of the Operations Bureau, supervising the 10 precincts, patrol operations and all support operations. A 20-year BCoPD member, Jones currently serves as Major in charge of the Patrol Division, a command to which he was appointed in 2011. Jones has spent his career in Operations and Patrol.
Jones becomes the highest-ranking minority member in BCoPD and the second African American to hold the rank of Colonel, the second-highest rank in the police hierarchy.
Experience and Diversity
"We are fortunate in Baltimore County to have the opportunity to promote commanders of such experience and integrity," said Chief Johnson.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz expressed confidence in Cohen and Jones as leaders and noted that the promotions mark another step in the County's commitment to diversity at all ranks of its public safety agencies. "These promotions are an important move toward a police department that reflects and understands its citizenry."
Some Categories Have Fallen to 1980s Levels
The official statistics for 2014 show a 7.2 percent reduction in overall crime in Baltimore County, with a decline in almost every category of violent crime.
Police Chief Jim Johnson, along with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, announced this latest crime data at a press briefing this morning in Towson. (BCoPD releases crime statistics that have been certified as accurate under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. BCoPD uses the previous five-year average as a benchmark for comparison.)
“Our police department has surpassed my expectations when it comes to crime reduction,” said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “Some categories of crime have fallen to levels not seen since the 1980s.”
Like overall crime, Part I Crime – which includes the most serious types of violent and property crime – decreased by 7.2 percent relative to the previous five-year average. All precincts saw a reduction in Part I Crime, with Essex experiencing the greatest decrease of 11.9 percent.
Part I Violent Crime – homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault – fell by 6.1 percent overall. Most notably, an 11.3 percent decrease was recorded in cases of aggravated assault. Aggravated assaults are the most serious types of assaults, often involving a weapon and often a barometer of a community’s overall safety.
All precincts experienced a decrease in Part I Property Crime, with the total decline recorded at 7.4 percent. This includes a 15.8 percent decrease in burglaries and a 17.1 decrease in motor vehicle theft.
Total crime – including total Part 1 and 2 Crime – also declined compared to the previous calendar year, 2013.
A Strategic Approach
Chief Johnson attributed the overall decline in crime largely to a strategic approach by Baltimore County Police that involves constant monitoring of crime trends and deciding how best to allocate resources.
“The other crucial factors,” Johnson said, “are the support of the County Executive in making sure resources are available and, of course, the talent and dedication of our detectives, patrol officers and community outreach officers.”
Revised April 6, 2016