BOWIE – Body cameras, which the mayor called “unbiased observers,” may become routine equipment for the city police department as it considers mandating that all patrol units make use of the technology. “(Body cameras) are something that we’re looking at considering. It’s something that the city manager’s very much interested in,” Deputy Chief Dewayne Preston […]
BOWIE – Body cameras, which the mayor called “unbiased observers,” may become routine equipment for the city police department as it considers mandating that all patrol units make use of the technology.
“(Body cameras) are something that we’re looking at considering. It’s something that the city manager’s very much interested in,” Deputy Chief Dewayne Preston said. “We continue to evaluate it. It won’t be the answer to everything but I think it’s something that does help.”
City Manager David Deutsch said a nationwide discussion continues to take place regarding community policing methods. Deutsch said he continues to follow the discussion and look at ways to enhance the work of the city police department.
“Our sense is that going to body cameras is a way to provide an additional level of protection both for citizens and the police so that when certain situations arise there will be a video log of that incident,” Deutsch said. “It will be one more way of providing a modern police department that is transparent and has nothing to hide. So we think it’s the logical next step.”
The mayor and city council asked Chief John Nesky for a recommendation at the end of the previous fiscal year and are still waiting on a cost assessment for implementing the cameras.
“My guess is if the numbers are pretty much what we think they’re going to be, council will approve that probably in this mid-year,” said Mayor G. Frederick Robinson.
According to Preston, the cost of the body cameras differs depending on the carrier, but they can cost as low as $100 per camera or as high as $300 per camera. Deutsch said the cameras and related data storage software will cost somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000.
Robinson said the cost of implementing cameras would be a reasonable expense.
“I think in principle, council has agreed that this is an appropriate course of action to continue the department’s growth not only in technology but in transparency,” Robinson said. “It protects citizens that have an interaction with the police and it protects the police as well.”
Preston said studies show use of the body cameras improves the relationships between officers and the community because everyone behaves a little better when they know they are being recorded.
“It’s just another tool. It’s another accountability tool and it’s another transparency tool,” Nesky said. “It allows for an impartial record of the encounter, the stop and the actions of the officer or citizen.”
Nesky said if citizens claim an officer acted rudely or wrongfully accused them, the cameras can provide the most accurate account of what happened.
“It’s an independent third party that can give a better assessment of what has actually happened when there’s an incident,” Preston said.
Bowie police are still evaluating the policies and protocols of body camera use, looking at the best practices of agencies already using them.
“Some agencies use every single interaction approach, they record everything,” Preston said. “We’re not anticipating leaning in that direction because we believe that will lead to excessive storage costs for the data that needs to be maintained.”
Preston said the BPD is looking to make the body cameras part of the fiscal 2016 budget.
“As soon as we finish the evaluation process and we’ve vetted all the particular vendors and find the best system for us, then that’s when we’re going to move forward,” he said.
Nesky said the BPD started discussing outfitting their officers with body cameras in October 2014 and are looking to implement them after July 1, 2015. Nesky said it’s possible for Bowie citizens to see the police walking around with cameras by Christmas 2015.