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Keyword: body cameras

Full Deployment is On Time and Within Budget

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced today that the County has successfully completed its aggressive schedule of equipping all uniformed police officers with body-worn cameras.

“Our police and information technology professionals implemented this important transparency initiative in a thorough and expedited manner,” said Kamenetz. “I appreciate the concerted efforts of our many partners including the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge Number 4, State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger and Sheriff R. Jay Fisher. We received valuable input from many stakeholders including the NAACP, ACLU, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and representatives from the Latino community and other community groups.”

In the fall of 2015, Kamenetz and Police Department leaders decided to move forward with deploying the cameras, despite recommendations of a workgroup to wait and continue studying the complex legal and operational issues related to the cameras, data storage and privacy. “Waiting wasn’t a good option because these cameras are such a valuable tool in strengthening the relationship of trust and understanding with the community. By objectively capturing the actions of officers in the field, they improve transparency and help reduce complaints against officers and facilitate more efficient, effective prosecutions,” Kamenetz said.

In October of 2016, County Executive Kamenetz acted to accelerate the full implementation of the body camera program by fourteen months by increasing overtime funds to triple the rate of officer training. 

“The body-worn camera program has already proven helpful in a number of arrests and prosecutions, and as we move forward we are committed to adapting our program as best practices and new issues may evolve,” said Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan.

“Body cameras are a valuable law enforcement tool that helps to protect officers and the public alike, and I think that County Executive Kamenetz was wise to move forward quickly with equipping our officers,” said County Council Chairman Tom Quirk.  

Program Costs

The first five years of the program will cost $7.1 million. That includes $1.25 million for the cameras and related equipment and $5.9 million for maintenance and storage. The annual cost of running the BWC program is estimated at $1.6 million, including ongoing officer training and the cost of hiring at least 21 additional full-time personnel in several departments to manage the program.

Video Storage and Access

Since the Body Worn Camera program was initiated in 2015, the County has processed more than 250,000 recordings including 45,000 hours of video and has transferred more than 79,000 files to the States Attorney’s Office (67,000 videos and 11,800 photographs).   

Storage and maintenance of massive amounts of video, and responding to public information requests are challenges requiring dedicated human resources support. Baltimore County’s implementation program included the hiring of additional IT support staff, evidence specialists, criminal records processors, forensic specialists, attorneys, training personnel and public information specialists.

Public Information Laws

Body camera video is treated the same as any other public record, subject to release under the Maryland Public Information Act and other relevant laws. Video footage of incidents also assists in resolving investigations by insurance companies, attorneys, the Motor Vehicle Administration and others through the Maryland Public Information Act.

The program includes public outreach to ensure that citizens are aware that these videos are public records, and that citizens as well as police will be portrayed.

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 . 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.

Plan includes acceleration of body camera implementation, independent review of sexual assault procedures, and task force to study cultural-competency training, de-escalation policies

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz this morning announced a Police Action Plan that will address policies and practices of the Baltimore County Police Department:

Acceleration of the County’s body camera program

The County’s implementation of police body cameras began this past July.  Currently 128 officers are wearing cameras in each of our precincts, with the original goal of full implementation by December 2018.  Effective immediately, the County will increase overtime expense to triple the rate of training, so that by September 2017, 1,435 police officers will be equipped with body cameras in Baltimore County.

Independent review of the police department’s Sexual Assault policies and procedures

Baltimore County has requested the Maryland Coalition against Sexual Assault (MCASA) and Judge Barbara Howe to conduct an independent review of the County’s response to sexual assault allegations and make recommendations.  As part of their analysis, they will review three years of sexual assault investigations that did not lead to prosecution.

“MCASA looks forward to working with Baltimore County to review existing cases as well as policies and practices in the area of sexual assault,” said Lisae C. Jordan, Executive Director of the Maryland Coalition against Sexual Assault. “We are particularly interested in working to strengthen the County’s Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) which is an essential component of effective practices in this area. A strong SART is essential to ensuring that all sexual assault survivors in the County receive an expert, trauma-informed, and respectful response."

“I thank County Executive Kamenetz for the opportunity to review prior cases as well as Baltimore County’s response to sexual assault crimes,” said retired Judge Barbara Howe. “As a judge for thirty-one years, I know how complex these cases can be and how important it is that victims be treated with dignity and respect throughout the entire process.”

Immediate change to sexual assault investigatory policy

As a result of internal reviews by the County Attorney and the State’s Attorney, Police Chief Johnson has implemented an immediate policy change.  While officers on the street always confer with specialized detectives in the sexual assault unit while investigating these crimes, effective immediately every individual reporting a 2nd degree sexual assault charge, as well as the suspect, will be personally interviewed by a detective in the sex crime unit.

Task Force to examine cultural-competency training, de-escalation strategies, and responses to citizens with behavioral health issues

The County Executive announced that a task force comprised of Police Chief Jim Johnson, Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch, Baltimore County’s Director of the Department of Health and Human Services and The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center will collaborate to explore the police department’s de-escalation training options, examine officers’ responses to citizens with behavioral health issues, and also review cultural-competency training.  

“Baltimore County has already demonstrated its commitment to appropriately responding to people with behavioral health needs, including advancing the pairing of mental health professionals with police officers to help navigate those delicate interactions,” said Suzanne Brown-McBride, deputy director of the CSG Justice Center. “Initiating this comprehensive task force review is further evidence of the county’s dedication to improving its approach, and we look forward to working with Baltimore County over the next year to review its policies and ultimately help enhance how police officers respond to people with behavioral health needs.”

“This is a forward-thinking agency, and we welcome the opportunity to partner with academic experts. Every police department can benefit from fresh perspectives about ways to enhance law enforcement policies and practices. I’m confident this comprehensive review will prove to be very valuable,” stated Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson.

“I am pleased that our County is taking strides to address issues where the paths of public safety and public health meet,” said Director of the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch. “At the core of helping anyone who suffers from substance use or a mental health condition is understanding that these are diseases, and then providing adequate training for those who may encounter persons with them.”

"I have the utmost confidence in the Baltimore County Police Department, but it is always helpful to have someone from outside an organization come in with a fresh set of eyes to take a look at how you do business,” said Baltimore County Council Chair Vicki Almond. ”I look forward to the results of these reviews, and am very pleased to see the County Executive accelerating the implementation of the expanded body camera program.”

Below is the text of the County Executive’s remarks as prepared at today’s press conference:

These have been challenging times for police-community relations across the country.

Anytime a citizen or a police officer dies or is injured during a confrontation, our hearts are saddened. Our first thoughts are with the family dealing with the unthinkable. 

However, each event reinforces the need to build trust, emphasizing open communication and transparency.  Government must do all that it can to minimize situations of conflict that put our citizens and our officers in harm’s way.

I also recognize that we have an excellent police force here in Baltimore County, nationally accredited with a strong reputation, record-low crime rates, with officers carefully hired, well-trained, and well-led. In fact, we have worked hard over the last five years to increase the diversity of our rank and file, and of our command staff, to ensure that our police force reflects the full quality of the county residents that they are sworn to serve.

We also give our police officers the latest tools and technology to do their job even better. 

But a great police department never rests on its laurels.  It continually adjusts, and strives to improve, using past experiences as an opportunity to be even better.  That is the expectation I have given this department, and this County government.

With that in mind, today I announce the following actions:

1. Baltimore County will accelerate the implementation of its body camera program.

One year ago, I announced implementation of a police body-worn camera program with the strong belief that it would improve the level of communication between citizens and police. 

We began to deploy police body cameras this past July, training 10 officers a week. We currently have 128 officers wearing cameras in each of our precincts, with the original goal of full implementation by December 2018. 

Effective immediately, we will increase our overtime expense to triple the rate of training, so that by September 2017,

1,435 police officers will be equipped with body cameras in Baltimore County. 

I remain confident that body cameras will make our communities and our officers safer, and the faster implementation achieves that goal that much sooner.

2. Baltimore County will undertake an independent review of police response to Sexual Assault crimes, as well as immediately change investigatory policy. 

A recent news article examined police handling of sexual assault cases across the nation, and Baltimore County Police Department fully cooperated with the press inquiry.  While we strongly disagree with some of the specific conclusions about our department, we recognize the central thesis that our response procedures should be reviewed to identify opportunities for improvement.

We want to make sure that we are doing all that we can to be a national model in terms of our handling of these complex and sensitive cases.  I also recognize that an outside set of eyes can offer a fresh perspective.

Accordingly, I have requested that the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), and retired Judge Barbara Howe, independently review policies and procedures in the area of sexual assault response, and make recommendations for further changes in our procedures.

MCASA serves all of Maryland’s jurisdictions “advocating for compassionate, accessible care for survivors of sexual crimes, and accountability for all offenders.”  It has extensive experience advocating law enforcement training to improve responses to sexual violence.  Judge Barbara Howe has a distinguished judicial career in Baltimore County, since her first appointment in 1985.  In addition to her service as president of the Baltimore County Bar Association and the Maryland State Bar Association, she has served as Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Community College of Baltimore County, chair of the Standing Committee on Professional Discipline for the Maryland Bar Association, and past chair of the Judicial Disabilities Commission in Maryland.  She currently serves as a Circuit Court settlement judge. 

I am confident that MCASA and Judge Howe can successfully review past police practices and procedures to identify recommendations for significant improvements to police responses to sexual violence. 

In addition to this outside review, I have asked Chief Johnson to review the past three years of reported 2nd degree sexual assault cases that were not referred for prosecution.  In addition, I asked the County Attorney and the State’s Attorney to also conduct a review of those same files.

As a result of those reviews, we have already identified one policy change that we can, and will, make immediately.  While officers on the street always confer with specialized detectives in the sexual assault unit while investigating these crimes, and in most cases, the victims and suspects are interviewed by a detective in this unit, effective immediately, Chief Johnson has ordered that every individual reporting a 2nd degree sexual assault charge, as well as the suspect, will be personally interviewed by a detective in the sex crime unit.

3. Baltimore County will undertake an independent review of police training procedures in areas of behavioral health response, cultural competency training, and de-escalation strategies. 

One of the most pressing issues facing police across the nation is how to de-escalate emotional encounters, particularly involving individuals with behavioral health issues.  Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from a serious mental illness that disorders their thinking, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. On any given day, half of these patients are not taking medications or receiving other care.  About one in 10 police encounters involve someone with mental illness.  Recent reports indicate that people with mental illness are 16 times more likely than others to be killed by police.

We see this trend across the nation, and we see it right here in Baltimore County.

In order to improve the way our police respond to these situations, I have asked the non-profit Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to work with the Baltimore County Police Department and our County Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate policies and procedures in three major areas:

Cultural competency training, De-escalation strategies, and Best practices on how to respond to individuals with behavioral health issues.

The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that works with policymakers in local, state, and federal government to provide practical, nonpartisan review and advice based upon evidenced-based best practices to increase public safety and strengthen communities.

Presently, our County Department of Health and Human Services has in place a comprehensive effort to help those in need. They manage Crisis Response Teams that work closely with the police department. They have hotlines like 88-REACH, offer community resources and events, coordinate inpatient and outpatient treatment, and secure residential treatment for individuals.

But Dr. Branch and Chief Johnson would be the first to tell you that we can always do better. Over the next six months, they will work with the Justice Center to conduct a comprehensive review of best practices in these areas and recommend changes to current practice that will benefit the public and the police officer on the front lines.

While we are unable to publicly discuss the specific details surrounding the Korryn Gaines case due to pending litigation, it is my expectation that this comprehensive review by the Justice Center will lead to recommendations that may help us avoid these kind of tragic incidents in the future.

The success of a police department is wholly dependent upon the cooperation and the trust of the communities it serves.  We hold this principle of utmost importance in Baltimore County.  The actions we take today will promote trust, transparency and accountability, making our citizens and our officers safer.

The BCPD action plan includes accelerated body camera program, sexual assault policy review, and training review.

Revised September 11, 2017