Paul Liquorie pulls up next to a couple whose car has stalled on the side of the road.
The Montgomery County police captain steps out of his black Tahoma, turns on his camera and, through Bluetooth on his cellphone, can see what is happening from the camera’s point of view.
The footage shows him walking over to the car and speaking with a man about what is going on. The feed is fuzzy due to the connection, but the situation is being recorded. There is no sound, but that could be due to the phone’s volume. This is an example of how body cameras are used by police officers.
These cameras have been making a positive impact since the pilot program was introduced on June 23.
Body cameras have made a home for themselves in the Montgomery County Police Department since the launch of the Body-Worn Camera System pilot program. One-hundred officers volunteered to test out both chest and lipstick cameras to compare and contrast which camera would ultimately be used.
Capt. Liquorie is currently testing the chest piece.
Standing at 6 feet, 4 inches tall, Liquorie wears a camera in the middle of his chest.
He said it is a lightweight piece of equipment that allows him to film while he is doing his job.
“I want to emphasize body cameras are going to be a very good tool, benefitting police and the community,” Liquorie said.
Cameras can potentially catch a person or a piece of evidence that the officer did not, he said.
“I can’t see everything,” he said. “I can’t remember everything.”
Cameras have the ability to de-escalate a situation, he said.
When people know they are being recorded, people tend to relax and think about their actions, he said.
Greater accountability on both sides of the camera is attained during recording, said Capt. Paul Starks, a public information officer with the County police department.
On Tuesday, Liquorie and other police enforcement met with the County Council’s Public Safety Committee about the cameras. Liquorie said he discussed his experiences with the cameras and that the cameras are making a positive impact. Police officers and residences are being held accountable for their actions, he said.
During a large party in Silver Spring, the camera caught people assaulting officers after arrests were made. People began to leave after Liquorie advised them that he was recording the situation, ultimately leading to a de-escalation of the situation. A driving under the influence case was filmed by a different department that clearly indicated the driver was unable to drive, he said. The camera caught the person trying to open the cop car with his feet and trying to put the car in gear, Liquorie said. Two weeks prior to Johnnie Perkins, 42, shooting himself and his common law wife, Shakina Marie Perkins-Moody, 34, at the Washingtonian Express gas station in Germantown, he was pulled over.
Liquorie’s camera taped cops reading Perkins’ his Miranda rights, he said. When cops searched his car and found a bullet, they asked him if a firearm was in his car, and his body language gave the answer, Liquorie said.
“A picture is worth a 1,000 words,” he said.
He said Perkins put his head down and shook his head.
Trust between the police department and residents is expected to be improve, Starks said.
“Time will tell,” he said.
Starks said there are mixed reactions regarding the implementation of cameras.
“These cameras are just an additional tool with other resources,” Starks said.
Chief of Police Tom Manger is wearing a chest piece and will be switching in October, he said.
The camera does not allow the captain to receive the full picture of what is happening due to his height, he said. Sometimes the camera records only parts of the person or situation, he said.
The cameras “emulate the officer’s point of view,” he said.
There are limitations to these cameras, he said.
Issues such as having a limited point of view from the camera make it difficult to catch a specific action or person, he said. For example, if someone were to hit him from behind or from the side, the camera would not be able to catch that, he said.
Sound requirements such as making it clearer to hear what is happening, night vision and zooming in are improvements that he thinks could be made, he said.
Starks said another disadvantage of the chest piece is having to make sure the officer’s body is turned in the direction of what should be observed.
In October, the volunteer officers will be switching to the opposing camera so that they get a feel for both.
Liquorie will be using a lipstick camera, which can be placed on an officer’s glasses or the collar of the shirt. Starks said these cameras allow for footage to be caught at the turn of an officer’s head.
There are issues with the lipstick camera such as the possibility of it being knocked off during an altercation, he said.
“I think it is going to be interesting to compare,” Liquorie said.
Officers will be taking a survey after the 180-day pilot to discuss what they liked and disliked about the cameras.
Different footage from Liquorie led to the first conviction via cameras on Aug. 21.
This was the first time someone requested that camera footage be entered as evidence in a trial, he said.
“You can hear me telling her to stop digging her nails,” Liquorie said.
The footage shows that he and another cop are trying to control the situation without using too much force, he said.
“This is the direction law enforcement is headed,” Starks said.
The Commission Regarding Implementation of the Use of Body Camera by Law Enforcement faces an Oct. 1 deadline to make recommendations regarding cameras. The commission will be making recommendations on issues such as privacy, retention, the Maryland Public Information Act and footage requests by attorneys.