Baltimore County weighs whether to require body cameras for moonlighting officers

After an off-duty police officer fatally shot a man in a supermarket parking lot last week, Baltimore County officials say they are considering requiring officers who moonlight as security guards to wear their body cameras.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has asked the county attorney to review the issue after a police officer working security shot and killed 35-year-old Christopher E. Clapp outside a Giant supermarket in Catonsville. State Sen. Jim Brochin, a Baltimore County Democrat, called for the county to require the camera use.

Other agencies with body-camera programs in the Baltimore region require officers who are working second jobs in their police uniforms to also wear their body cameras. But Baltimore County police leave it up to officers to decide whether to do so.

The officer in the Catonsville shooting, who has been identified only as Officer First Class McCain of the Parkville precinct, was in full uniform and used his service weapon when he fatally shot Clapp. Under an agreement with the police union, county police do not release the first names of officers involved in shootings.

Police said McCain, who suspected Clapp of shoplifting laundry detergent and other items, confronted Clapp in his car and that Clapp drove off, dragging the officer more than 100 feet in the parking lot. The officer was not injured and is now on administrative duty as police continue to investigate the shooting, a police spokesman said.

County police are phasing in their body cameras, and McCain had not yet been trained to use one, officials said. But had he been assigned a camera, he would not have been required to wear it while working an off-duty job, under departmental rules.

Other local police agencies with body cameras — including Baltimore, Laurel and Howard County — have policies requiring officers who are in uniform to wear their cameras while working second jobs.

Kamenetz, a Democrat, said he supported a change in policy 10 years ago to have off-duty officers wear their uniforms while working part-time security jobs, and said he’d support requiring them to use body cameras, as well.

The county executive said he would need to investigate whether there would be any additional cost for providing and maintaining the equipment for the greater use of the cameras, and would see whether it would make sense to have the officers’ off-duty employers share that cost.

“I’ve been a strong proponent of police body cameras,” he said. “I think that they are a very useful tool.”

Clapp is the fourth person county police have shot and killed this year. County police have shot eight people overall since January.

Clapp grew up in Roxboro, N.C., and had been living in the Baltimore area since the fall, said his younger brother, Justin Clapp of North Carolina. Both Clapp brothers previously lived in the area for college — Justin at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Christopher at Towson University.

They eventually moved back to North Carolina, but in October, Christopher Clapp decided to return to Baltimore. He was working as a delivery driver.

Clapp recalled his brother as funny, bright and kind, saying he would cherish all the “silly memories” they shared together. Since his brother was killed, he’s heard from many people who say Christopher Clapp was there for them during difficult times in their lives, such as bad break-ups and other times of loss.

“There’s such a hole in so many people’s lives,” Clapp said.

He said learning that his brother died a violent death has been especially hard for the family because “he was never aggressive.”

“What’s important right now is that we mourn his loss, but we do have questions,” including why the officer didn’t have a body camera, Clapp said. “I know we don’t have the full story yet, and so that’s hard. … Unfortunately, there’s only one side of this story still living, so there’s no way we can ask my brother what happened.”

Brochin said that if the county doesn’t change its policy on body cameras for moonlighting off-duty officers, he will consider introducing legislation to require it.

“If the rules of the county Police Department allow them to wear their uniforms when they’re not on duty and they’re in a different job, then the same rules have to be enforced in regards to body cameras,” Brochin said. “This incident raises obvious questions.”

Police say surveillance footage from the Giant is part of their investigation of the shooting, but they have not released the video. The department declined to provide details about what is depicted in the footage or to say how many times Clapp was shot.

Once police turn their findings over to the county state’s attorney’s office and prosecutors rule on whether the shooting was justified, the department will consider releasing the video to the public, said police spokesman Cpl. Shawn Vinson.

McCain, a 16-year veteran of the force, also was involved in a shooting in 2006. In that incident, he was one of two officers who shot at a carjacking suspect who drove toward officers, Vinson said. The suspect survived the shooting, which was ruled legally justified.

About 1,000 Baltimore County officers now have body cameras, with a goal of equipping more than 1,400 uniformed patrol officers with them by the end of September.

David Rose, second vice president for the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, said that while requiring off-duty camera use “sounds good in theory,” there would be many logistical issues to work through that he thinks would make it difficult. Officers have to dock their cameras at their precincts to upload the data and charge them, Rose said, and they need to make sure the cameras are charged for their regular shifts.

Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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