By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
mgray@afro.com

A day before one of his officers was indicted for second-degree murder, Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski told members of the County Council that his goal is to have every officer equipped with a body camera by the end of 2020.  

Stawinski made the remarks during the Council’s March 3 meeting where he made sure to stress how important it is for the Department to outfit every officer with equipment that would document all interactions with potential suspects to offset fatal incidents that have occurred in recent months.  He said the Department’s goal is: “to have every uniformed police officer on the street with a body camera by the end of this calendar year. Period.”

Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski told members of the County Council he hopes to have every officer equipped with a body camera by the end of 2020. (Courtesy Photo)

Stawinski’s remarks preceded a grand jury’s second-degree indictment against Corporal Michael Owen Jr. in the January shooting death of William Green from Southeast, D.C.  Green was supposedly handcuffed and subdued, but was shot to death in the front seat of a police cruiser leading to charges being filed and ultimately the indictment on charges of second-degree murder, manslaughter, assault, use of a handgun and misconduct in office.

“From the onset of the investigation into this incident, my office worked collaboratively with the police department, but also conducted an independent investigation into the facts of the incident,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said in a public statement. “Today, we presented our evidence to a grand jury, and the grand jury returned an indictment charging Corporal Owen.”  

The incident magnified the growing assertion among the County’s law enforcement leaders of the need for body cameras for it’s patrol officers.  Stawinski is following the position that was taken by Prince George’s County Sheriff Melvin High, who has wanted to outfit all of his officers with body cameras since 2018.  High was reportedly hoping to outfit body-worn cameras to all 264 of his deputies by June of last year. However, there are estimated between 22 to 25 cameras that are in use by the County’s deputies.

Currently just 80 Prince George’s County Police officers are participating in a trial program involving the use of the body cameras throughout the County.   Of the more than 1,500 sworn officers who comprise the department, approximately 900 patrol officers would be equipped with the cameras according to Stawinski.

The Sheriff’s Office is also hoping to raise the amount of cameras in use from 25 to 140 by the end of the year.  There are reportedly 268 sworn deputies but only 150 cameras available to be in situations that involve exchanges with citizens involving enforcement activities. Those responsibilities include responding to 911 domestic violence calls,   serving criminal warrants, evictions, child support payments and providing courthouse security.

However, there is a significant cost that the County Council must deal with before approving the implementation of body worn cameras.  It has been estimated by Mark Magaw, the County’s deputy chief administrative officer for public safety, it would cost $2.6 million in funding through the County budget.