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Howard County to implement body worn cameras by end of the year

Posted at 1:40 PM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-24 17:08:46-04

HOWARD COUNTY — Howard County will be implementing body worn cameras by the end of the year.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the implementation of a body worn camera program will be included in his Fiscal Year 2022 (FY 2022) operating budget.

“Nationwide, we know that many communities are hurting and have faced injustice at the hands of those entrusted to protect and serve,” said Ball. “While we have not had issues in Howard County like those in other parts of the country, there is much work to be done to restore confidence and re-build relationships, especially within communities of color. Focusing on public safety and reinforcing public trust remains a priority of my Administration, and we’re pleased to be moving this popular program forward in Howard County. I want to thank Chief Myers, Sheriff Harris and State’s Attorney Gibson for their collaboration and ongoing partnership as we work continuously to make Howard County one of the best and one of the safest communities in America.”

In a pilot program with body-worn cameras almost four years ago, Howard County could not identify a single case where footage clarified an officer’s justification for using force, but Police Chief Lisa Myers says they still made a difference.

“It gives the community an added layer of confidence that their police department is being transparent and accountable by having those cameras,” said Myers.

The approximately $3.2 million-dollar program would include the Howard County Police Department, Sheriff’s Office and staffing needs for the State’s Attorney’s Office.

The program would include hiring 23 people, training and purchasing equipment.

County Executive Ball announced in June of 2020 that the County would revisit the program and develop solutions to overcome the previously cited challenges for implementation.

The County proposed program covers 300 HCPD uniformed officers that have direct and regular contact with the public. HCPD anticipates using the vendor from its one-year pilot program, Axon, and expects to immediately begin acquiring equipment and conducting training for officers when funding becomes available on July 1.

The department anticipates the program will be fully up and running before the end of the year.

The program includes the following for the Howard County Police Department:

  • Cameras for 300 uniformed officers
  • New Body Worn Camera Division and Video Management Section
  • 10 new positions (three sworn, seven civilian)
  • Extensive training for every sworn member and many civilians
  • Equipment acquisition

The State’s Attorney Office will need 13 new positions to manage the workload for cases with video footage, out of the approximately 11,000 total cases handled by the office.

The office has 30 days from when the defendant has been formally advised of the charges being brought against them or from when their defense counsel enters their appearance on the defendant’s behalf to provide discovery on any information: to be used in court to prove guilt; that may show the innocence of the accused; or undermines the credibility of their witnesses.

In cases that are handled by the State’s Attorney’s Office, footage from every responding officer must be reviewed and analyzed, redacted, tagged for certain moments, compared to paper police reports, used in court, and stored for a legally required time of at least 20 years.

The program costs include training for new staff members and technical needs to store and review footage.

The program also includes additional cameras for 70 deputies in the Sheriff’s Office.