ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Many of Maryland’s largest police departments still do not equip officers with body-worn cameras.
After the death of a handcuffed man in police custody in Prince George’s County last week, there is a push to expand the use of such cameras.
In Baltimore, body-worn cameras cost the city close to $20 million each year. They have been illuminating in cases from officer-involved shootings to evidence tampering.
Baltimore County also mandates the use of police body-worn cameras.
Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties do not.
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There are renewed calls for cameras in Prince George’s County, where Corporal Michael Owen Jr. faces murder charges for shooting William Green seven times last week while he was handcuffed in the front seat of Owen’s squad car.
Cpl. Owen was not wearing a camera, and only 80 of that department’s more than 1,500 officers have them.
The ACLU of Maryland calls that “completely unacceptable.”
While the county plans to finally equip officers with more cameras next year, stumbling blocks have been cost and data storage.
Jason Johnson is a former deputy police commissioner in Baltimore City who worked on reform efforts. He is currently the president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.
“The biggest pro is that it allows for the opportunity at transparency so the community has some sense of what their law enforcement officers are doing,” he said. “There are limitations to body-worn cameras. They don’t capture everything. They have to be activated manually. Sometimes, the direction the camera is pointed does not capture an important piece of information.”
He notes they do not typically reduce the number of complaints and the public should look at the totality of the video. “You really have to watch the entirety of the video to understand the dynamic of the incident and what lead to the use of force,” Johnson said. “Certainly, anyone would rather have the video than not. It can help pinpoint the timeline.”