Baltimore Police introducing new prisoner vans

Posted at 3:08 PM, May 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-01 06:12:52-04

Baltimore Police are introducing new prisoner transport vans.

The vans are equipped to record video inside the vans and include seatbelts for each detainee as well as straps to hold onto during the ride.

In all, Baltimore Police will replace ten older vans with new, black vehicles which were being equipped at a city Department of General Services garage in east Baltimore off the Edison Highway.

Thirteen others have already been retrofitted to include the new upgrades, meaning all vans in the department's fleet will now have three interior cameras, and another above the rear doors.

"That footage can only be accessed by certain people," said Police media director TJ Smith, which he said does not include the van driver, though a four-way split screen at the front of the van will display the camera images.

The vans will also now have a side section capable of carrying two detainees who must be separated from anyone in the back, Smith said, in cases where juveniles or individuals of different sexes must be transported. That also meant in instances where detainees are being combative, he said.


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Each of the eight seats in the van will allow detainees to be seat belted, while straps are provided for them to hold on to during the ride.

Baltimore FOP president Lt. Gene Ryan issued a statement Tuesday in support of the updated vans saying in part, "The use of recording cameras will, of course, go a long way towards the prevention of unanswered questions such as those that surround the death of Freddie Gray. We agree that the new prisoner transport vehicles are a welcome addition to the BPD fleet."

Smith declined to discuss the reason for the changes, citing a gag order in the ongoing trials of the officers charged in Freddie Gray's death, but said they're part of what he called "best practices."

"We're moving in a direction that provides better equipment for our officers to use and for prisoners to be in," Smith said.

The police department last week began distributing body cameras to officers as part of a program that could make Baltimore Police the largest police department in the country to use this type of camera.

"We've made a number of significant changes in the agency," Smith said. The body camera program will equip 2,500 officers with cameras by 2018.

"You can always look back at something and say 'Was that the moment, and is that because?' I'll leave that up to (the press)," Smith said.

After Freddie Gray was fatally injured in the back of a police transport van last April, community activists called for upgrades to safety and transport practices.

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