BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Across the country, it is rare that officers are mandated to wear body cameras while working secondary jobs in uniform.
But, in one of Maryland’s largest forces, that could soon change after an off-duty Baltimore County Officer killed a suspect in Catonsville.
For the first time, WJZ is hearing from the brother of a man killed by an off-duty police officer earlier this month.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz believes that officers should wear body cameras in secondary jobs. The policy issues still need to be worked out, but this is a position that is increasingly rare around the country.
The family of Christopher Clapp wants answers about why he died. He was shot by an off-duty Baltimore County Police Officer at a Giant Supermarket in Catonsville.
“I have so many questions about what could have been going on because I know my brother as this big gentle giant,” says Christopher Clapp’s brother, Justin Clapp.
Police say the officer, who was in full uniform working security at the grocery store confronted Clapp at his car about stealing detergent — but that’s when things reportedly went wrong.
Police say Clapp took off and dragged the officer, who shot him with his service weapon.
“I just don’t believe that shoplifting means that you should be killed,” says Justin Clapp.
But the officer wasn’t wearing a body camera, which is prompting debate. Baltimore County Police Officers are not required to wear cameras, even when they’re moonlighting as security.
This is a different policy from Baltimore City. But Baltimore County Executive Kamenetz may change the procedure.
“Technically, a police officer is on duty 24 hours a day. If a crime is committed in that police officer’s presence and they’re off work, they suddenly become on-work and engage in the duties of a police officer,” he says.
“If this officer, working part time, had a camera on him at the time, hopefully, that would have backed up his version as well.”
The Associated Press surveyed major cities across the country and found most do not require cameras for moonlighting officers, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and LA.
Only six cities, including Charlotte, San Francisco, and Houston do. Advocates for cameras say an officer working security in uniform, even off-duty represents the department.
However, those opposed sight cost and logistics. Those are all things Kamenetz is considering.
“I’m hopeful that we can get those issues resolved, set up a specific policy that’s very clear,” he says.
For Justin Clapp, a body camera could have provided the closure he’s desperately seeking in his brother’s death.
“It’s hard to know what to believe right now. I’m still grieving the death of my brother,” he says.
There is surveillance video from the grocery store showing Christopher Clapp’s shooting. Kamenetz says he believes it backs up what the officer said is his version of events. However, the State’s Attorney will make the final call on whether the shooting was justified or not.
The County Executive did not have a firm timeline for mandating uniformed off-duty officers wear body cameras, but he says the new policy could be in place early next year.