Baltimore Police Start Wearing Body Cameras (UPDATE: City Releases Camera Policy)

"You can't claim to be transparent and then say those orders are a secret. It's beyond ridiculous."


[Update, 11:24 a.m.: Score one for transparency: The city has reversed itself and made its policy public. The Baltimore Sun has published the document here. Original post below.]

Body cameras have come to the Baltimore Police Department, with 155 officers donning the devices this week. This is a pilot program, aimed at allowing the city to decide which of three different camera vendors it should buy from; the rest of the department is scheduled to start following suit next year.

The new policy has been promoted as a way to make the police more transparent. But the city isn't being very transparent about how exactly the cameras will be used. The Baltimore Sun reports:

Not an employee of the City of Baltimore
MCP Pictures

[T]he department declined to release the "draft policy" it developed to govern how and when officers use their cameras, how officers can respond to citizen requests not to be filmed, how the department plans to use the footage, and who will have access to the recordings. Those issues have been debated nationally and raise thorny legal questions, including around citizens' privacy concerns.

"We are working from a draft right now because we want to fine-tune that policy to make sure that, as we experience this pilot program, we're going to learn and the community is going to learn," said Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere. "We will be transparent moving forward and we will answer the community's questions in regards to what the policy suggests that we do at this point."

David Rocah of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, a member of the mayor's body camera task force and the state's body camera commission, called the Police Department's decision not to publish its policy "incomprehensible and utterly unacceptable."

The state commission specifically called for policies to be public in its recommendations to state legislators, and members of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's task force "assumed and we specifically discussed that the policies would be public," Rocah said….

Residents who fear that officers' body cameras will "only be on when officers want them to be on and they won't be on when officers are engaged in misconduct" should be able to look to the department's policy for assurances that officers are being held accountable, Rocah said.

Rocah's bottom line: "You can't claim to be transparent and then say those orders are a secret. It's beyond ridiculous." To read the rest, go here.

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  1. But the city isn’t being very transparent about how exactly the cameras will be used.

    The footage will be used when it exonerates law enforcement and disappeared when not. But how to put that into a written policy…

    1. It’s classified. For city security.

    2. Easy: Use of the footage will be up to the officer’s discretion.

      1. Because officer privacy, amirite?

        1. Seeing officers engaging in misconduct could result in the people having less trust in their public servants. Can’t allow that. Government can’t effectively function without public trust.

          Just look at the erosion of public trust in the wake of all these police shootings. No one would have known about any of this if not for uppity citizens filming the cops. The filming is eroding public trust, so it must be controlled.

        2. If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.

          Funny how that doesn’t hold for the police. But there’s no double standard at all, no sirree.

  2. “The camera malfunctioned just before the suspect attacked the officer. His service weapon discharged at that point, killing the attacker.”

    BCPD can pay for use of that PR boilerplate.

    1. I’ve already got the footage!

  3. Listen civilian, we are wearing the cameras, that is all you need to know.

    1. Nobody said anything about turning them on.

  4. It’s beyond ridiculous.

    That seems to be pretty much par for the course at this point. For pretty much everything.

  5. there is no reason a police body camera should EVER be off while they are interacting with the public.

    i mean, sure, turn it off in the john, but failure to turn it on when doing their job should be admissible in court and immediately cast strong suspicion on their version of events.

    this is not complicated. anyone trying to make it so is just trying to protect bad behavior.

    1. anyone trying to make it so is just trying to protect bad behavior.

      The entire point of being a cop is that you can do anything you want, including initiating violence on anyone for any or no reason. The job of a police chief is to justify or hide that behavior, and the job of a prosecutor is to let that behavior slide.

      Cameras will totally fuck up the system, unless the footage is controlled by the cops.

  6. Mandatory Activation

    Unless, unsafe, impossible, or impractical to do so, the BWC shall be activated:

    1. …

    2. During any ecounter that becomes confrontational.

    Good to know that I’ve been using the dictionary definition of those words all wrong.

  7. I believe the cameras can only be truned off by a button on the side of their Serpa Lvl III retention holsters…hehe

  8. People should not have a choice about being filmed or if they do they should forfeit all rights to sue.

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