Baltimore County still weighing police body cameras

Baltimore County cops have Taser cams, but body cams still being studied.

Baltimore County's police officers are now carrying Tasers equipped with video cameras, but a decision has not yet been made whether they should wear body cameras, too.

Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson said Thursday he has some reservations about body cameras, including how much of an officer's work should be recorded and how the footage should be stored and managed.

"We're chiseling out what a good program looks like," Johnson told members of the Baltimore County Council during a budget hearing Thursday.

While some promote body cameras as a tool for identifying problematic police officers, Johnson said there are other ways to find problem officers, such as having a robust internal affairs department.

An internal task force has been studying issues surrounding body cameras, and Johnson said he's reviewing the group's 100-page draft report before making a recommendation to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Johnson did not indicate what his recommendation would be.

Kamenetz has been supportive of body cameras and testified at the General Assembly this year in support of bills that clarify legal issues with body cameras, such as the ability to record sound without violating the state's wiretap law.

County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Reisterstown Democrat, said she's concerned that body cameras might make police officers less approachable.

"I think in some ways, it could be a detriment," she said.

Meanwhile, county officers recently began using cameras attached to their Tasers in March.

Johnson said the footage is not ideal, as it usually records the floor before the Taser is used because officers keep their weapon pointed down before deploying it.

Despite that limitation, Johnson said, Taser camera footage has been helpful in a few cases, though he did not elaborate.

Baltimore Sun reporter Alison Knezevich contributed to this report.

pwood@baltsun.com

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