Article31 Batts Comments1

Baltimore Police Commissioner discusses his views on body cameras before Baltimore City’s work group on body camera implementation on Dec. 1. (AFRO PHOTO/R.Alejandro)

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said he was “very supportive” of body cameras and that he would like to see them phased into his department over time. Batts laid out his thoughts on various aspects of such programs while presenting before the city’s work group on body camera implementation.

“I am very supportive of this technology,” Batts said. “I think it will allow us to show the good work that the men and women on this police department do on a regular basis. I think it will also allow us to hold them accountable.”

Batts said his department had estimated the cost of implementing a body camera program to be between $6 million and $12 million. That is $1-7 million dollars more than the initial estimate of the city’s budget management bureau, but theirs was an admittedly rough estimate drawn up with limited background on the various costs of such a program.

Batts said because of the size of the Baltimore Police Department, he preferred to start with a pilot program and then phase in implementation over time.

“I think that’s the only way that you can do it,” answered Batts when Councilman Brandon Scott asked him whether he would prefer a phased implementation. “We have three areas within the city, and I think I would like to go from area to area because you have to get the policy down… have to understand the policy.”

A standardized statewide policy on body cameras, said Batts, was also preferable to a patchwork approach with different jurisdictions in the state setting up their own policies and procedures.

“As citizens travel from city to city through the state of Maryland, the application of that technology (body cameras) or laws should be even at every agency,” said Batts when asked by Del. Curt Anderson whether Batts saw an advantage to a uniform state policy.

While Batts was widely supportive of body cameras, he warned that they were not a panacea to community-police relations, but a “subset” of a larger effort, called for by President Barack Obama during a recent summit of law enforcement officials in which Batts was involved, to rethink how policing is done in order to build trust.

“What stated is that, whether we like it or not, the way that policing is done today is not connecting with the communities that we serve, and so we have to change, and adapt, and move policing to a different stage, to a higher level, another level of evolution, than it has in the past. And that’s really the mandate of the president at this point.”