Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the implementation of a body worn camera program will be included in his Fiscal Year 2022 (FY 2022) operating budget. The approximately $3.2 million-dollar program would include the Howard County Police Department, Sheriff’s Office and staffing needs for the State’s Attorney’s Office. Photos of the event can be found here. Video can be found here.
“Nationwide, we know that many communities are hurting and have faced injustice at the hands of those entrusted to protect and serve,” said Ball. “While we have not had issues in Howard County like those in other parts of the country, there is much work to be done to restore confidence and re-build relationships, especially within communities of color. Focusing on public safety and reinforcing public trust remains a priority of my Administration, and we’re pleased to be moving this popular program forward in Howard County. I want to thank Chief Myers, Sheriff Harris and State’s Attorney Gibson for their collaboration and ongoing partnership as we work continuously to make Howard County one of the best and one of the safest communities in America.”
County Executive Ball announced in June of 2020 that the County would revisit the program and develop solutions to overcome the previously cited challenges for implementation. The County proposed program covers 300 HCPD uniformed officers that have direct and regular contact with the public. HCPD anticipates using the vendor from its one-year pilot program, Axon, and expects to immediately begin acquiring equipment and conducting training for officers when funding becomes available on July 1. The department anticipates the program will be fully up and running before the end of the year.
“Our body camera pilot showed that there would be value to this technology, but there were barriers to implementation,” said Police Chief Lisa Myers. “With the support of County Executive Ball, we are overcoming those challenges and making it clear to our officers and our community that body cameras are a priority.”
The program includes the following for the Howard County Police Department:
· Cameras for 300 uniformed officers
· New Body Worn Camera Division and Video Management Section
· 10 new positions (three sworn, seven civilian)
· Extensive training for every sworn member and many civilians
· Equipment acquisition
“Our office has always been in favor of the implementation of body-worn cameras as a technological tool to provide accurate and reliable evidence of crimes committed or lack thereof,” said State’s Attorney Rich Gibson. “And with a strong push from the community for more transparency and accountability of a defendant or police officer’s actions, these cameras will likely become an indispensable part of criminal investigations and prosecutions moving forward.”
The State’s Attorney Office will need 13 new positions to manage the workload for cases with video footage, out of the approximately 11,000 total cases handled by the office. The office has 30 days from when the defendant has been formally advised of the charges being brought against them or from when their defense counsel enters their appearance on the defendant’s behalf to provide discovery on any information: to be used in court to prove guilt; that may show the innocence of the accused; or undermines the credibility of their witnesses.
In cases that are handled by the State’s Attorney’s Office, footage from every responding officer must be reviewed and analyzed, redacted, tagged for certain moments, compared to paper police reports, used in court, and stored for a legally required time of at least 20 years. The program costs include training for new staff members and technical needs to store and review footage.
The program also includes additional cameras for 70 deputies in the Sheriff’s Office.
“I am an advocate for body worn cameras,” said Sheriff Marcus Harris. “I believe that the implementation of body worn cameras is good for the citizens of Howard County because it builds trust and provides transparency between law enforcement and the community that we serve.”
“The HCPD Citizens’ Advisory Council provides input and feedback to the Chief of Police, and we have been supportive of implementing a body camera program,” said Susan Watkins, Chair of the HCPD Citizens’ Advisory Council. “Our members have watched this agency grow and develop to meet the ever-changing needs of our communities. Today is a great example of that evolution. We are happy to see that all of the agency’s time and efforts to move this program forward are coming to fruition and we thank Dr. Ball for his commitment to the program.”
“We are pleased with the progress that has been made on this initiative as evidenced by this important announcement today from Dr. Ball,” said Ted Stewart from the Police Accountability Task Force of Howard County. “We remain fully committed to our continuing engagement with county leadership to fulfill our goal of implementing a best-in-class body worn camera program for our County’s law enforcement personnel.”
Watch the video of the press conference here: