Body-worn cameras for the Anne Arundel County Police Department are likely to be added to the proposed budget after a week of unrest across the country due to recent instances of police brutality, officials said Monday. The initial cost of the equipment and technology would add roughly $4 million to the $1.72 billion budget.
Though Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman said he wanted to fund them in the fall after the state police report found that Anne Arundel had more instances of bias and hate crimes than any other jurisdiction in Maryland. He said he did not include them in his May 1 proposal, citing decimated revenue projections due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, after a week of unrest around the country, state and county after yet another black person, George Floyd, was killed by law enforcement officers, Pittman has said his team is scrambling to put together a supplementary budget request that would add the body cameras to the budget.
“I think that we need to build trust between our police department and our communities. The image of George Floyd being tortured and killed by a police officer in broad daylight instills fear in the hearts of a lot of people — particularly in African American people and African American young people who are wondering what their future looks like in this country,” Pittman said in an interview with The Capital. “They have to know that there is transparency and accountability in policing.”
Though their initial estimate for the equipment and technology is between $4 million and $5 million, Pittman’s senior adviser Chris Trumbauer said it could end up being much less, depending on the vendor they partner with. If the administration and the council can find a way to pull the funds together, it’s likely they will have enough support to get the body cameras into the final budget.
Though typically supporters of a smaller budget, the three Republicans on the Anne Arundel County Council came out in support of funding the cameras in a news release Monday, citing the need for trust-building and accountability.
“I cannot begin to understand the pain and anger that is being felt by people of color in Minneapolis and across this country,” wrote Councilman Nathan Volke, R-Pasadena. “There is no simple cure for systemic racism, but we must begin to take steps forward.”
Volke, along with Councilwomen Amanda Fiedler, R-Arnold, and Jessica Haire, R-Edgewater, wrote that body cameras won’t solve systemic racism on their own but would be a first step supported by dialogue and input from community leaders, advocates, religious leaders and others.
Haire wrote that she thinks the council can work together to make cuts in order to fund the cameras.
On Friday, the council will meet with county auditor Susan Smith to evaluate the budget. They will amend the budget over the next two weeks before a vote.
Councilwoman Lisa Brannigan Rodvien, D-Annapolis, said she understands that the urgency for police worn body cameras has increased dramatically over the last week, and she is supportive of the initiative.
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“It would provide accountability, it would prevent all kinds of misunderstandings that we need to stop," Rodvien said. “And helps build trust. If they can be ‘caught on camera’ doing everything right, that makes a difference.”
Rodvien joined many other residents downtown Annapolis on Saturday to protest Floyd’s death.
“I do think there is anger about what the (black) community has had to endure for a very long time and frustration that things aren’t changing,” Rodvien said.
Jacqueline Boone Allsup, president of the Anne Arundel County NAACP, and Carl Snowden, a longtime activist and convener of the Caucus of African American Leaders, both called on Pittman to restore funding for the body cameras in the budget in a press conference Friday in response to Floyd’s killing.
“We know that body cameras are not the panacea; they will not solve the problems that we face in this country," Snowden said. "But what body cameras have proven to be is an unblinking eye that will tell a story that is not based on people’s perspective of what happened.”
Staff writers Naomi Harris and Alex Mann contributed reporting.