Any time something tragic happens, people automatically cry, “Something has to be done!” It’s probably encoded somewhere in our DNA. After riots ripped the streets of Baltimore apart following allegations of police brutality and murder, it would have been easy to do the wrong thing.
It looks like Baltimore is going in a positive direction. One with police body cams.
More than 150 police officers in east, west and central Baltimore were equipped with body cameras Monday — instructed to begin recording their interactions with the public as a first step toward department-wide use of the technology next year.
The move reflects a national trend of law enforcement agencies adopting body cameras amid heightened scrutiny, particularly in urban and majority African-American communities like Baltimore. Police departments are taking action as civilians increasingly post their own recordings of police interactions online.
Top commanders described Baltimore’s two-month pilot program in broad terms during a news conference at police headquarters Monday. The program will test cameras from three vendors before one is chosen for use citywide. Officers will be responsible for activating the cameras before interacting with civilians and for uploading the footage to cloud-based storage provided by the vendors. People being recorded can request that officers turn off their cameras, officials said.
Unfortunately, there are flaws with the program. Officers being responsible for turning them on and uploading, and honestly, people can ask they be turned off? That’s a recipe for disaster too.
Recently, we reported on a police shooting where the incident was captured on a body cam. Thanks to the video, we can see the suspect charge the officer after a series of beligerent comments and him failing to comply with the officer’s orders. Can you imagine what that incident would be like if the kid had asked the officer to turn off the camera?
Still, it’s a start. Residents of Baltimore who want to see this program do more, let us know. The people in Ferguson, MO are taking action themselves, by the people and for the people, and the people of Baltimore can too. We might be able to help.