St. Mary's Deputies Will Test Body Cameras

By Guy Leonard, St. Mary's County Times

HOLLYWOOD, Md.—By the beginning of next year 13 deputies will be testing body cameras to see how useful they are in gathering information from police on the beat and in dealing with use of force complaints, Sheriff Timothy K. Cameron said Tuesday.

“We’re purchasing 13 units with grant money to evaluate them,” Cameron told The County Times. “I believe they are very useful but they may not be the silver bullet that everyone believes them to be.

“But the audio portions of the recordings could be the most valuable.”

The nationwide push to equip police with body cameras has only increased in the wake of several high profile cases in which police have used force—often times to the lethal extreme—against suspects.

The most notable in Maryland has been the Freddie Gray case in which a man arrested by Baltimore City Police died in their custody under murky circumstances; six officers have been charged in his death with some counts ranging to murder.

Cameron said the cameras will be distributed mostly to patrol officers and those deputies working on traffic enforcement and in the Special Operations Division.

Cameron said the devices will first be tested to ensure they are technically sound; the units are compatible with in-car camera systems that are installed in all patrol vehicles.

Those in-car cameras, along with their audio systems, have proven to be valuable investigative tools, Cameron said, but they have also shed light on use of force complaints.

“They have helped exonerate officers of charges,” Cameron said, who added that the audio recordings were particularly useful since the statements made by both police and suspects in use of force instances were invaluable in determining whether the amount of force used was appropriate.

Each unit of body camera costs about $1,300, Cameron said and their use by local deputies should coincide with the Maryland Law Enforcement Training Commission’s adoption of regulations governing the use of body cameras.

Currently under debate, along with other operational questions, is how much of law enforcement recordings should be released under public information requests to either just interested parties in a case or to anyone in the public requesting to view the recordings.

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