More than 150 Baltimore officers to get body cameras

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Baltimore City Police Officers Begin Pilot Body Camera Program.

BALTIMORE (AP) — More than 150 Baltimore police officers will be outfitted with body cameras as part of a pilot program that will eventually expand to the entire force. Lawmakers meeting in Annapolis last week to study ways to hold police more accountable and improve police-community relations agreed to recommend shortening the time officers accused of misconduct get to retain a lawyer before cooperating with investigators in internal disciplinary proceedings. Officer Hannah Parrish from the Western District already made use of hers made by Taser, and says she is feeling good about having it. “There’s two sides to every story and it’s not often that the police officer’s side really comes out and it’ll be good for the community,” Parrish says. Though the proposal is a relatively modest reform whose actual impact may be as much symbolic as substantive, the General Assembly should adopt it when it convenes in January.

Under certain circumstances a person can ask not to be recorded, and Deputy Police Commissioner Dean Palmere says an officer just can’t get rid of what’s recorded. “They will not be able to delete video,” Palmere says. “There is positive feedback from the community already. With the trials of six Baltimore City officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray likely to overlap much of next year’s legislative session, the issue of police misbehavior will be very much on the public’s mind.

I think the officers feel a sense of security, and that’s the purpose of this program… Is to continue to build the community’s trust moving forward.” The pilot program will be tested for 54 days, after which a camera will be selected. Currently, officers have up to 10 days to seek legal representation before they can be questioned by department investigators about alleged wrongdoing. The so-called “10-day rule,” which is part of decades-old legislation known as the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, has often been cited as a factor inhibiting commanders from holding officers accountable for misbehavior and undermining trust between police and the communities they serve.

The panel’s recommendation would reduce that period to between three and seven days, with a recommendation of five days appearing as the most likely compromise. Though former Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts often complained that existing legislation makes it harder for commanders to discipline “bad apples” on the force, the 10-day rule applies only to internal investigations conducted by police departments, not to criminal probes launched by state’s attorney’s offices or by federal prosecutors.

If a prosecutor wants to question an officer about an incident of alleged misconduct, LEOBR doesn’t shield suspects from cooperating with the inquiry, though officers have the right to counsel and constitutional protections against self-incrimination in those circumstances anyway. But many cases of wrongdoing involve misdemeanors — petty theft, simple assault, reckless driving or discharging a firearm within city limits — that don’t rise to that level but nevertheless unlawfully threaten public safety and undermine confidence in the police. Finally, police departments in Maryland and elsewhere have long resisted allowing civilian review boards to participate in misconduct investigations, but such panels need more power to hold officers accountable. Baltimore City’s toothless civilian board has neither the resources nor the legal authority to independently investigate allegations of misconduct or compel the department to discipline officers guilty of wrongdoing. The city clearly needs a stronger board that can intervene in such cases to resolve them in a timely fashion and with a degree of thoroughness and integrity that convinces citizens their complaints are actually being addressed.

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