Body cameras are making a niche for themselves in Montgomery County.
State Attorney John McCarthy said 80 out of a pilot group of 100 Montgomery County police officers are using body cameras on the streets.
Ike Leggett, county executive, and the County Council have authorized the purchase of 900 more cameras, but those will not be implemented for another 18 months, McCarthy said.
The cameras are designed to protect residents and build trust with the police department.
“I am in favor of the body cameras,” said McCarthy. “I am not naive to the issues.”
Problems with privacy, retention, cost, the Maryland Public Information Act and footage requests by attorneys are among difficulties that have come up.
There are issues with cameras that have been expressed by American Civil Liberties Union, such as privacy and retention. Making sure the information is secure and being disposed of after a certain amount of time are issues that will need to be taken care of.
“The police and prosecutors and county attorneys have been in planning discussions for months,” said Laura Chase, deputy state’s attorney. “The pilot will provide us with valuable data to assess our future needs in these areas.”
McCarthy says the county is the largest jurisdiction in the state to implement body cameras.
“Most of the smaller departments are waiting for two things: watching was happens with the county and what happens in Annapolis,” McCarthy said.
The Body-Worn Camera System, the pilot program in the county, launched on June 23. The officers wearing the cameras will go through training to learn how to use the equipment.
Chief of Police Tom Manger expects the entire department to have body cameras, but there is no definitive date, said Officer Rick Goodall, public information officer for the police department.
Manger wears a camera, McCarthy said.
“I think there is value in building trust with the community,” he said.
McCarthy said the idea of using cameras is not new, citing dash cameras in police cars.
Once 1,000 out of 1,300 officers are using cameras, almost every officer will be wearing one, McCarthy said.
The first camera conviction in the county took place on Aug. 21. Judge John Moffet found Patience Sesay, 44, guilty of second-degree assault and resisting arrest.
“Body camera video corroborated the eyewitness testimony of officers at the scene,” said Ramon Korionoff, public affairs director for the county’s state’s attorney’s office.
The Commission Regarding Implementation of the Use of Body Camera by Law Enforcement faces an Oct. 1 deadline to make related recommendations. The resulting regulations are geared toward police departments that choose to employ the cameras.