The Chief says there are still some issues to resolve with the devices.
Frederick, Md (KM). Some officers with the Frederick Police Department started using body-worn cameras in October of last year, and Chief Ed Hargis says so far, so good. “Still working out some of the issues between us and the State’s Attorney on how to present video for the prosecution and those types of thing. But overall, the program is working well for us,” he says.
Chief Hargis was a guest Saturday on WFMD’s “Frederick’s Forum.”
The Police Department purchased 18 body worn cameras, and three each are used by officers in each of the agency’s six patrol squads. The Chief says the departments which have used these cameras have seen fewer citizen complaints about officers. “We have had some administrative investigations where we’ve been able to go back and take a look at the video and found the officer was acting appropriately and resolve those issues,” says Hargis.
He says the one issue that needs to be addressed is how the video from these cameras can be used in court as evidence by the prosecution. “Obviously, a prosecutor has to look at all of the video before they go to court. So if you have one officer that was involved in an arrest and the whole incident is 45-minutes, but there’s two backup officers who also had cameras, that’s an additional 90-minutes of video, plus the original 45-minutes that the prosecutor now has to watch. So that’s a workload increase on the prosecution side,” Chief Hargis says.
All of the Frederick Police Officers wearing body cameras are volunteers. As for those who may be a bit reluctant to strap on these devices, Chief Hargis reminds them that many citizens carry camera phones and could also be recording an encounter with police. “We tell the officers, ‘one, always expecting to be on video. We videotape ourselves. It’s part of the job. Deal with it,'” he says.
In addition to videotaping police encounters with the public, the Chief says body worn cameras can also be used as a training tool. “We can take a look at it from quality control. Are we doing the right things on our car stops and field interrogations. Are there training issues that get identified that we have to go back and take a look at,” he says.
By Kevin McManus