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Howard County Council approves funding for police body-worn camera program, with hopes to launch by May

The Howard County Council approved releasing $476,969 in contingency funding to the county police department, sheriff’s office and the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office for the new body-worn camera program during its legislative meeting on Monday night.

“I am really excited this is moving forward,” said member Christiana Rigby, District 3, after the 4-1 vote.

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The funds were approved with an amendment requiring the departments to provide regular reports, with the first due in three months, on the program’s progress, including what staff have been hired and how funds are being used.

“This is a huge chunk of money. The biggest … we authorized,” said member David Yungmann, District 5. “A little bit of checkup is not a bad idea.”

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While District 4 council member Deb Jung expressed concern about taxing the departments with another chore while busy implementing the new system, only District 2 member Opel Jones voted against the amendment, saying he has never had trouble getting information from the police department, the state’s attorney office and the sheriff’s department.

“I trust these three departments,” Jones said Monday evening.

The funding for the camera program was initially put into contingency during the fiscal 2022 budget process in the spring to give additional money to the Howard County Public School System, instituting a delay in the program’s implementation that had been scheduled to start this summer.

The county’s police body-worn camera program is scheduled to receive roughly $1.6 million of the county’s $63.2 million of the federal American Rescue Plan funds on Tuesday. This money, combined with $1 million in preliminary funding for equipment and licensing that was set aside during the fiscal 2022 budget process, will go to supporting the program.

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At a news conference in August, County Executive Calvin Ball said the $3.1 million would be used to hire 26 “essential positions” across the county police department, the state’s attorney office and the sheriff’s department; purchase 600 cameras for 300 uniformed police officers that have “direct and regular contact” with the public; expand storage capacity and acquire the necessary software; and procure additional equipment for the deputies in the sheriff’s department.

Ball hopes to have the program in place by next May, ahead of the state’s mandate for body-worn cameras in larger jurisdictions by summer 2023.

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