Baltimore City Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere discusses the use of body cameras at a news conference on Oct. 26. (Photo credit: YouTube screenshot)
On Oct. 26 the Baltimore City Police Department held a press conference to announce a trial program in which 155 officers from the Eastern, Western and Central districts of Baltimore will wear body cameras while dealing with civilians.
The officers – who volunteered or were chosen by their commanders – have been instructed to use the cameras for 54 days.
The cameras being used in the trial were provided by three different companies.
“Our three different cameras we are testing currently are from Panasonic Arbitrator, the Vievu System and the Taser System,” said Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere. “Once we conduct and conclude our pilot program, we are looking at February of 2016 to where a contract will be awarded for one of those vendors.”
Civilians have the option of asking officers to disable the cameras under specific circumstances that have been stated in the department’s draft policy – which has not been released because it is not finalized.
Palmere said that the State’s Attorney office was involved in the trial program’s formation.
Body cameras for police became an issue after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody earlier this year. Six officers are facing trial for the circumstances surrounding his death.
“What we expect out of these cameras is improved public confidence in their law enforcement agency, additional evidence that could be used for prosecutorial purposes, enhanced officer safety and decreased citizen complaints,” Palmere said.
Officers will be in charge of enabling the cameras before any encounter with civilians. They have to transfer the footage, which is owned by the police department, to storage folders provided by the three companies.
Palmere encouraged officers who are unsure whether to record a situation to do it anyway.
“When in doubt, record it,” he said.
Palmere said that officers may have the option of disabling their body cameras depending on the situation they are in, but specific details are stated in the private draft policy. Officers are not, however, allowed to delete videos.
The police department plans to implement body cameras across the entire city department within two years, Palmere said.