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Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

Body Camera Launch
June 30, 2016

Today we launch the first phase of the Baltimore County Police Department’s body-worn camera program. Without question, this is one of the most challenging and important projects we’ve undertaken in some time.

We did not make the decision to adopt this program lightly. Body cameras involve a substantial financial commitment, and they require us to confront many important—sometimes conflicting—issues including privacy, the First Amendment and the practical impact on police officers and the public. The announcement we are making today is based on a year and half of research, debate and thoughtful consideration about how to balance all of those important issues.

The technical program and policies our Police and Information Technology departments have put together will become a model for other jurisdictions considering body cameras.

Why body cameras? Why in Baltimore County? We are investing in this program for one reason: Because we believe it will improve public safety. We believe the cameras will help in multiple ways: By enhancing transparency, accountability and trust. By reducing complaints against officers. By improving the behavior of all parties involved in a police interaction and by making prosecutions more effective and efficient.

Body Cam Deployment Schedule

The first ten cameras will be given to officers on July 5, 2016 and will be in use, on the street, on July 6. One camera will be assigned to an officer in each precinct. After that, the Police Department will train 10 officers a week for 15 weeks. These first 150 cameras will be deployed throughout the 10 precincts and in other units where the use of cameras has been deemed appropriate by the Chief of Police.

The remaining 1,285 cameras are scheduled for deployment beginning in July 2017. We expect the project to be fully in place by December 2018. When complete, 1,435 of our 1,900 police officers will wear cameras.

Program Cost and Vendor

The vendor for the program is Taser International, Inc. Our eight-year, $12.5 million contract with Taser is a good deal for taxpayers. It covers the purchase of the Axon Flex cameras, maintenance, unlimited data storage, licenses and other expenses. These costs will be paid by 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 the police personnel needed to run the body camera 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 Office.

Transparency

I want to talk for a moment about transparency. As you are no doubt aware, there has been considerable debate in other places about who should be able to view body camera footage and the extent to which it should be released to the public. There is no debate about that here in Baltimore County.

Body camera footage is a public record, subject to release under the Maryland Public Information Act and other relevant laws. We will treat requests for footage the same as requests for any other public record. The same legal and policy exceptions that apply, for example, to police reports and 911 tapes will apply to camera footage. Absent those exceptions, we will release the footage.

Use Policy and FAQs on the Web

Our website resource on body cameras addresses the most important questions about the program; this information has been available to the public for months at baltimorecountymd.gov/police and will be updated as the program evolves.

The Police Department’s use policy on body cameras is also available on our website.

We know that citizens are likely to have additional questions about this program, perhaps some we can’t anticipate at this time. Our Police Department Outreach officers, as well as my constituent service team, will be available in the months ahead to talk to people about it.

Making us Safer and Stronger

Finally, I remind all of our citizens that body camera footage is not magical. It cannot provide all the information needed to make a fair, accurate judgement about police activity. It is no substitute for a thorough investigation, and it has limitations.

But we are confident, based on our extensive study over the last year and a half, that cameras are a useful tool that can help make us safer and stronger and provide clarity in many situations. That’s good for all of us.

 
Revised August 25, 2017         

 

Contact

County Executive,
Don Mohler
Phone: 410-887-2450

Contact the County Executive.

Request a ceremonial document.

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