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Keyword: transparency

Workgroup to Offer Recommendations, Bring Greater Transparency and Accountability to Law Enforcement

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski today issued an executive order announcing the formation of the Baltimore County Workgroup on Equitable Policing, which will examine policing policies and practices and make recommendations for ensuring equitable policing in Baltimore County.  

The Baltimore County Police Department collects and reports data related to traffic stops annually to the Maryland Statistical Analysis Center (MSAC). A review of 2018 data (PDF) shows that African-American individuals were issued citations at a rate higher than other individuals. While the data does not necessarily indicate bias or discrimination, the County Executive and Police Chief Melissa Hyatt believe the data merit thorough examination.

First-of-its-Kind Workgroup

The first-of-its-kind workgroup will examine current policies, practices, and training related to equitable policing in Baltimore County and offer recommendations to ensure equitable policing practices and bring greater transparency and accountability to law enforcement.

“Our law enforcement officers work tirelessly day in and day out to keep our communities safe, and I am grateful for their dedicated service. We also have a moral obligation to ensure accountable, equitable, and just law enforcement that serves all residents,” said County Executive Johnny Olszewski. “Today we are taking steps to provide a closer look at our data, promote fairness, improve accountability and build a safer, stronger county.”

“This work group is an opportunity for us to increase communication and transparency in Baltimore County.  Every day and every night our officers are out in our communities patrolling in an effort to keep everyone safe,” said Baltimore County Police Chief Melissa Hyatt. “We owe it to the members of our community to ensure that we are utilizing our resources in the most effective way.  I look forward to being a part of this important discussion.”

Responsibilities of the Workgroup

The newly announced workgroup will:

  • Review and analyze data provided to the Maryland Statistical Analysis Center;
  • Collect and analyze additional data from the Baltimore County Police Department;
  • Analyze benchmarking data from other political subdivisions and comparable jurisdictions across the country;
  • Review current written orders and manuals relevant to traffic and person stops;
  • Meet with command staff and officers in the Police Department to examine how current policing practices and principles may be influencing the data;
  • Review training and supervision that Police Officers receive with respect to implicit bias in policing; and
  • Review national best practices with respect to equitable policing, traffic and person stop practices and policies, training and supervision.

Workgroup Members

Chaired by Baltimore County’s newly-named Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Troy Williams, the workgroup consists of a diverse array of talented and knowledgeable individuals, including: 

  • Crystal Francis, Community Representative
  • Tony Fugett, Baltimore County NAACP
  • Councilman Julian Jones, Baltimore County Council, District 4
  • Omer Reshid, Student Member of the Baltimore County Board of Education, Youth Representative
  • Colonel Robert McCullough, Baltimore County Police Department
  • Anthony Russell, President, Blue Guardians
  •  Scott Shellenberger, State’s Attorney
  • John Skinner, Professor of Criminal Justice, Towson University
  • Delegate Charles Sydnor
  • Cole Weston, Fraternal Order of Police
  • Chief Melissa Hyatt, Baltimore County Police Department (ex-officio)
  • Drew Vetter, Baltimore County Deputy Administrative Officer (ex-officio)

”I am honored to help lead this work group and committed to taking swift action to carry out the County Executive’s charge to review the data and identify actionable recommendations that will ensure equitable policing across Baltimore County,” said Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Troy Williams.

Workgroup Tasks

The Baltimore County Workgroup on Equitable Policing will host two public input sessions to receive public comment. Dates and times for these public input sessions will be forthcoming.

The Workgroup will issue a draft report and recommendations no later than July 2020, which shall be posted online for public comment. Following public input, the Workgroup will issue a final report no later than August 2020.

“Communities are safest when police and residents can trust each other,” Delegate Charles Sydnor said. “I’m thankful County Executive Olszewski is leading on this issue and convening this workgroup to thoroughly investigate these concerns and to affirm that trust.”

“We have a responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure Baltimore County is safe for all of our residents,” Councilman Jones said. “I’m looking forward to serving on this workgroup and working collaboratively and ensure equitable policing in every community across Baltimore County.”

The full text of Executive Order 2019-001 (Baltimore County Workgroup on Equitable Policing) is available for review.


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.


 
 
Revised September 11, 2017