A Local Prosecutor Has Doubts About Effectiveness Of Bodyworn Cameras In Criminal Cases


He also says reviewing the footage takes a lot of time and money.


Frederick, Md (KM) A lot of police departments and their officers like them,  but some prosecutors have mixed feelings about bodyworn cameras. That’s according to Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith, who was a guest recently on WFMD’s “Morning News Express.”

Bodyworn cameras are worn by police officers, and can record interactions between officers and citizens. They are usually activated during traffic stops or other incidents.

Smith says most prosecutors have their doubts about how effective they are in criminal cases. “It’s seems to be that most states that have launched these statewide, the prosecutors say they can help, but they’re not that much utility involved in bodyworn camera evidence,:” he says.

He says prosecutors believe there are “a very small percentage of {their} cases where it actually has a profound impact.”

Smith also says reviewing the footage from these cameras takes a considerable amount of time and money. “The biggest problem with prosecutors really is the volume of information,” he says. “The limited utility just  isn’t   really worth the staffing, the cost, the hours upon hours upon hours. We have to staff an entire unit for this.”

And this delay, Smith adds, could mean some criminal cases may be dropped. “So now we’re stuck with a situation of having any case that utilities bodyworn camera footage being dismissed by the judge for discovery violation, which puts us in an ethical conundrum because we really can’t proceed knowing that we can’t review this footage, and knowing that we can’t say ‘hey, there’s something on this footage that you need to look at,'” he says.

The Frederick Police Department has 18 bodyworn cameras, and is expected to go department-wide during the summer, says Smith. The County Sheriff’s Office does not use bodyworn cameras.

Smith says any jurisdiction thinking of supplying their police officers with bodyworn cameras should consult with their local prosecutors  before making that decision. “If you’re gonna do it, you’ve got to fund the DA’s office. There’s no way around that,” he says.

By Kevin McManus