Police in Aberdeen have an array of new technology and equipment at their fingertips, whether they are out on the street or handling communications back at the police station.
Police Communications Operators Samantha Greb and Chris Klisavage were on duty on a recent October night, working in the refurbished communications center in the city police station at North Parke and Franklin streets.
Each sat at a desk, facing a bank of six computer monitors that showed a variety of data as Greb and Klisavage monitored the night’s activity in the city. Television monitors mounted on the walls of the small room showed additional things such as security camera footage of Aberdeen’s City Hall and the police station.
City leaders had visited the refurbished communications center, plus they received an update on the Aberdeen Police Department’s body camera program for officers, earlier in the day during a work session Oct. 7.
Mayor Patrick McGrady said that the new communication center is “clean and it’s attractive, and it’s a safe and happy place to work.”
The dispatch center has all-new equipment, plus the adjacent clerical space has been refurbished and subdivided into separate work areas, Police Chief Henry Trabert said during a tour after the Oct. 7 City Council meeting. Greb and Klisavage, the PCOs, were on duty that night.
“It’s very nice,” said Greb, who has been a communications officer for about a year and a half. “It’s user friendly [and] clean.”
She and Klisavage noted the improvements to the dispatch center have helped streamline communications processes, all of which are facilitated through that room.
Personnel on duty in the center field calls for service — calls received at the Harford County 911 center north of Bel Air are transferred to Aberdeen’s police dispatch center if the incident happens in the city and a police response is needed — and communications officers then relay information provided by the caller to police officers out on the street, plus they can dispatch EMS units on the same call if needed.
Communications officers also handle data entry and interact with people who walk into the station and need to see an administrator or police officer, according to Greb and Klisavage.
Klisavage received a call at his station around 9 p.m. — the caller reported a person at the Royal Farms store along Route 40 trying to sell something to passersby. Klisavage asked the caller for information such as the location, description of the suspect and if the person was asking for money. He then hung up with the caller and relayed the same information to police.
“Anything to do with [Aberdeen Police] communications, this is the hub,” Trabert said.
The Aberdeen Police began issuing body-worn cameras to all officers in late August, starting with those on patrol shifts and expanding to detectives, special investigators and school resource officers. City police must turn on their cameras, which record audio and video, during any interaction with a citizen on a call for service — Trabert said he, as chief, even wears one if he is out in the community.
Trabert and Donna Burdette, administrative supervisor with the police department, gave city leaders an update on body cameras during the Oct. 7 work session, including showing several clips of footage shot during calls for service.
The clips included an officer in the midst of a confrontation between two women at a residence — one woman fell from the steps of the house as the officer tried to handcuff her — another clip of an officer handling a large group of people gathered at a residence and a third clip of an officer responding to a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle at a shopping center.
Some people in the videos could be heard using profanity, which Trabert warned city leaders about beforehand.
“The language here is what the guys see on the street, so it’s not always pretty,” he said.
The 84 cameras, as well as support hardware and software, are being provided by Arizona-based Axon at a cost of $250,000 over five years. Police place the camera in a charging station at the end of their shifts, and the station facilitates the transfer of the audio and video to an Evidence.com web page, which prosecutors with the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office can review as well as police department officials.
Councilman Melvin Taylor questioned what happened when the woman fell while being arrested in the first clip, plus he asked how citizens can see the body camera video, such as after an incident involving police.
Trabert said people can file a public information request, noting that “we can release some video, depending on what the case is.”
“We’re not going to release anything that will jeopardize an investigation,” the chief said.
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Police officials review body camera footage any time there is an arrest or incident that involves the “slightest” use of force by an officer, said Trabert. The chief noted the process can take many hours, especially when multiple cameras are involved.
“If there’s three [officers] on a scene, there’s three cameras, that’s three videos that we have to go through,” Trabert said.
The chief praised how the body cameras improve transparency for the police department, and noted footage shows that officers do their jobs properly the majority of the time.
“What we’re finding out is, they’re doing a pretty good job out there,” Trabert said of his officers.
Police Cpl. John Adams also gave city leaders a demonstration of how his body camera works. He said there is an app for his smartphone that allows him to go back and review the footage shot on his camera, which is helpful when compiling a report.
“Sometimes when we’re out on a call, things get really fast paced and blurry, and you have to go back and look at the video to make sure you got all your facts right,” Adams said.