A recent barricade situation that led to the fatal shooting of a Randallstown woman by police officers who were attempting to serve arrest warrants has yet again ignited a discussion that involves law enforcement issues.
In many facets of life, technology is changing the way businesses operate. Governments are slowly learning to adopt similar practices. One such new technology that might have helped shed additional information on this and similar situations: police body cameras.
Baltimore County has just begun phasing in their body camera program as of July 2016, equipping one officer in each of the 10 precincts across the county. 10 more officers will be trained each week until there are 150 officers with body cameras in the field. Eventually, there will be 1,435 cameras in use – and these are expected to be in place by December of 2018. There are 1,900 officers in the Baltimore County Police Department.
The program has an estimated annual operating costs of $1.6 million, most of which will be funded through revenue generated by the county’s speed and red-light cameras. It will be governed by policies created by the county.
The County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger called this action a “positive first step for law enforcement and for the prosecution of criminal cases,” suggesting that “cases can only get better because of this footage.” The footage of body camera video will be considered a matter of public record, subject to release as prescribed by the Maryland Public Information Act and similar requirements – enabling citizens to request and receive the footage under most circumstances.
A report from the ACLU of Maryland detailed that five individuals died last year during encounters with police officers in Baltimore County – a number higher than anywhere in the state. To that end, many believe that an effective body camera program will reduce negative interactions between the public and police, increase transparency and help with investigations. Others have expressed concerns about privacy and how released footage might be used.
What do you think of the new police body camera plans in Baltimore County? Do you support outfitting the police force with them?