BALTIMORE – The head of Baltimore’s police union praised Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for her approach in working toward having city officers outfitted with body cameras.
Gene Ryan, president of FOP Lodge #3, said the deliberate rollout of the program will ensure that body cameras will be utilized in a fair manner for all parties involved, including officers, suspects and witnesses.
“To deny the probable advent of body worn cameras into the law enforcement profession would be unrealistic,” said Ryan, a member of the Mayor’s Task Force on Body Worn Cameras, in a statement. “In fact, it is clear that, in many cases, the cameras will be an asset to our profession. The methodology of the Mayor’s plan, including a lengthy pilot program, is without question the proper path as there will most certainly be the inevitable learning curve for all involved.”
“Despite everyone’s best intentions there will be problems and concerns that, at this time, cannot be predicted. We will continue to stay engaged in the process and will support the Mayor’s plan as long as there are no inherent issues that could derogatorily affect our membership.”
Ryan’s response comes a day after Rawlings-Blake unveiled the city’s recommendations for implementing a body camera program for the Baltimore City Police Department. The recommendations were included in the working group’s report, which is the result of several months of research conducted by the working group.
“We are committed to getting this right,” said Rawlings-Blake in a statement. “These recommendations are the outcome of serious and robust conversations from many representatives of the community. This policy will benefit and protect our sworn members and the public. It will also guarantee a level of accountability for everyone.”
Rawlings-Blake announced the formation of the working group in October 2014. The group—whose goal is to assess the implementation of body cameras for BPD officers—was comprised of law enforcement officials, legal representatives, information technology specialists, community members, and clergy.
The Mayor’s Working Group on the Use and Implementation of Body-Worn Cameras reported the following recommendations and findings:
The total cost of body worn cameras in year one would range between $5.5 million and $7.9 million depending on type of cameras and how many officers are wearing them.
A pilot program is the most cost efficient way to prepare for a full roll out of a body-worn camera program throughout BPD. This will permit a thorough review of different body camera models and allow BPD to fully vet policies and practices.
Based on 100 officers piloting the technology for 6 months, the projected fixed cost of a pilot program is approximately $1.4 million. The pilot program would be included as part of the City’s formal procurement process, which, on average, takes 180 days from RFP issuance to awarding the contract.
The pilot program should be conducted in high call volume districts and should begin by the end of this year.
Cameras should be operated during every interaction with the public and during the exercise of police powers during law enforcement activities. Law enforcement personnel should alert citizens involved in an interaction (as soon as practicable) that a body-worn camera is operational.
A body camera program must be consistent with best practices under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) to handle external and bulk requests.
Additionally, the working group recommends a four year data retention period for footage captured by body cameras.
The report also details recommendations for training, as well as protocols relating to the recording, logging, and storage of camera footage, and access to this footage.
A public comment period will take place through March 6. You can send any thoughts you have on the police body camera program to: Feedback.firstname.lastname@example.org .