Baltimore Police begin issuing body cameras

Posted at 3:23 PM, May 27, 2016

They were handing them out like diplomas.

It was the second group of 25 Baltimore Police officers receiving their new body worn cameras, graduating to a new era and new accountability in American policing.

"I believe it is a win, win for everybody. The ambiguity that was before in reference to police, citizen interaction is alleviated to a certain point right now...we're kind of lessening the tension," Maj. Marc Partee said.

But not before about a day-long training class learning not only use, but the new Baltimore Police policy on body worn cameras.

The officers, pulled from every district in the city, learned when to turn them on, when they are allowed to turn them off and the disciplinary actions in between, a mandatory new part of their uniform meant to record every interaction with any citizen.

"It will protect you against false accusations,” Sgt. Habib Kim told the class, “But on the flip side if you are doing something wrong, it is gonna catch that. All they are allowing the department to do is call you on your actions just like we do."

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The recording will make for more accurate reports police say although officers may not view footage from when they use force, which would be handled by internal affairs.

It is a lot of technology and a lot of new rules, but the Baltimore Police Department is aiming for a continuing roll out; as officers complete training, they will be required to use the cameras.

At classes of about 25 officers twice a week, the goal is full force deployment in two years making Baltimore one of the largest departments in the country to use body worn cameras.

"The training is in place and we want it to be a succinct as possible, we want to get it right the first time. We don't want it to be like a blinking VCR. We want the officers to be able to use the cameras efficiently and effectively," Partee said.

It's an effort, the VCR reference notwithstanding, to modernize and improve policing in Baltimore while improving relationships with residents and fewer complaints.

After officers complete this body worn camera training, they will sign what is called a line sheet or completion of training which will be placed in their personnel folders.

Part of the reason why Officer Edward Nero was acquitted this month was because he was never trained nor was there proof he completed training on how to buckle prisoners in the backs of wagons. Nero was the second of six city officers to stand trial for the police custody death of Freddie Gray last April. 

Follow Brian Kuebler on Twitter @BrianfromABC2.