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The potential for a major increase in public information requests emerged as a major concern at the second and likely final meeting of Maryland’s state police body camera workgroup.

While an informal voice vote indicated general agreement among group members that body cameras were beneficial overall, discussion mostly focused on the cameras’ limitations. That trend raised questions about whether the group’s final recommendations, due Dec. 1, will help statewide legislation or simply raise potential issues for legislators to parse.

Because of the amount of data that body camera video would generate, and the costs of reviewing and editing video for release under a potential public information act request, a number of workgroup members were concerned about police agencies being overwhelmed with numerous expensive requests if police departments statewide adopt the use of body cameras.

“I still think these requests are ultimately going to be the biggest challenge that we have to face as a law enforcement and public safety community going forward,” said Edward Parker, deputy director of operations for the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention and chair of the workgroup. “I think we’re going to be inundated with them, at least early on because it’s going to be a novelty.”

Discussion during the state workgroup’s second meeting, much as in the first, focused on potential limitations and drawbacks of the cameras. But Chief John Fitzgerald of the Chevy Chase Police Department’s suggestion that the group use recommendations developed by the Police Executive Research Forum as a guide for their own report seemed to set the path forward, as the group looks to finalize recommendations to the General Assembly.

“The PERF recommendations are good, thoughtful recommendations in list form,” said Fitzgerald. The workgroup is now set to use those recommendations as the basis for its report.

Vince Canales, president of the Maryland State Fraternal Order of Police, said his union would be releasing a minority report with respect to their views on the limitations of body cameras and the PERF report recommendations, separate from the final version of the workgroup’s report.


ralejandro@afro.com