Body worn cameras use varies among DC area authorities – NBC4 Washington

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Amid the pressure for increased police transparency, wide varieties and differences in the use of body-worn cameras of police remain in the Washington, DC area, according to a review by the News4 I-Team.

In a survey of around 20 of the region’s largest and oldest police departments, the I-Team found disparities in the use of cameras and the policies that govern video streaming.

Twelve of the top 20 police departments use body cameras. Some were early adopters, deploying the first batch of officers’ cameras in 2015, including Takoma Park Police and the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

The I-Team found that the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department, as well as Montgomery and Fairfax counties, widely deployed their cameras between 2016 and 2018 and are among the largest users of cameras, with more than 1,000 devices deployed by each agency.

But camera deployment is slower or non-existent in some neighboring communities and agencies. A spokesperson for the Alexandria Police Department told the I-Team: “The short answer is that Alexandria currently does not have a BWC in our police department. This is something we would accept because we think transparency is important, but in order for us to have them we would need city council to approve the resources so that we can get them and maintain them. “

Howard County Police in Maryland said they will start using their first batch of cameras in the coming months and have yet to do so this month. Although the state of Maryland recently passed a law requiring police departments to use body-worn cameras by 2025, the I-Team found that the Charles County Sheriff’s Office and the Charles County Sheriff’s Office Frederick County Sheriff had not done so.

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins told the I-Team his department would comply with the new requirement, but said there was no timeline to do so. Jenkins criticized the cameras, calling them expensive and ineffective at capturing full, contextual footage of certain events.

“The camera doesn’t always capture what you think it’s capturing,” Jenkins said. “Cameras sometimes raise more questions than answers. “

Maryland State Police and Virginia State Police have not deployed body worn cameras. A spokesperson for the Maryland State Police said body-worn cameras would be obtained before the 2025 deadline set by the state legislature. The spokesperson said the agency was already using on-board dash cameras. He said the ministry was in the midst of a board camera replacement program. The new on-board camera system is compatible with a body-worn camera addition, the spokesperson said. In response to a series of questions about body-worn cameras, a Virginia State Police spokesperson issued a brief statement: “VSP personnel do not have body cameras. “

The I-Team’s investigation of local police requested copies of policies relating to body-worn cameras. All but one department, the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office, responded with copies of the policies and said the policies are readily available to the public. When the I-Team asked Calvert County why its policy was not publishable, a spokeswoman said, “Our body-worn camera policy is publicly available. It is currently under review. Two months after the initial request, the agency has still not provided a copy to the I-Team.

The I-Team has also verified the amount of cameras deployed in some jurisdictions. Some smaller agencies, including the Gaithersburg Police Department and Takoma Park Police Department, said they equipped all officers with cameras. Prince George County Police said they outfitted nearly 800 officers. DC Police have deployed about 3,200 cameras, according to a department statement.

Using cameras alone is no guarantee of police transparency, according to police reform advocates and lawyers who have filed a complaint for videos. Zina Makar, a Georgetown Law attorney who has challenged the police department’s policies in court, said agencies are adopting policies that require the posting of full videos, not edited versions, when showing footage to claimants .

“All the issues are deeper than the body camera images,” she said. “They go to the heart of policing as an institution and they will not be resolved simply by posting a few pieces of body camera footage.”

Makar said agencies should publish their editing and publication policies publicly for citizens to read.

You can read the body-worn camera policies for agencies that have responded to I-Team here:

Reported by Scott MacFarlane, produced by Rick Yarborough, shot by Steve Jones and edited by Jeff Piper.


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