Body Cameras For Ocean City Police Officers Supported; Resort Hopes To Have Them In Place Before 2025 State Mandate

Body Cameras For Ocean City Police Officers Supported; Resort Hopes To Have Them In Place Before 2025 State Mandate
An Ocean City police bike officer is pictured patrolling the Boardwalk in June. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY – Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Chief Ross Buzzuro told resort leaders this week his agency has begun taking the first steps in implementing a body-worn camera program.

Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation mandating law enforcement agencies to wear body-worn cameras to document their interactions with the public. While agencies have until 2025 to adopt the use of body-worn cameras, Buzzuro told members of the Ocean City Police Commission on Monday that OCPD officials were already having discussions with vendors.

“Obviously, we aren’t going to wait until 2025 …,” he said. “We wanted to at least let the commission and council know we believe this is a very valuable resource for us to move forward with in terms of public safety, the safety of our officers and the safety of our citizens.”

Buzzuro’s announcement this week comes nearly a month after the state’s Office of the Public Defender called on Ocean City’s police department to expedite its use of body-worn cameras in the wake of two highly publicized Boardwalk incidents in which the agency’s use of force was called into question.

In both cases, attempts to issue citations for vaping on the Boardwalk ended with physical confrontations between OCPD officers and the suspects and resulted in cell phone videos showing snippets of the incidents being circulated online.

During Monday’s commission meeting, Buzzuro said the purchase and use of body-worn cameras would be costly, but that officials were looking at all funding options.

“There is some time with this mandate,” he said. “But because we look at this as such a valuable tool for us … we certainly want to move forward on it.”

Elected leaders this week said they supported OCPD’s use of body-worn cameras. Councilman Lloyd Martin, commission chair, said the need for a body-worn camera program was brought up in several conversations following last month’s events.

“We need the proper planning …,” he said. “There’s a lot of pieces to it.”

Officials said the town would not only have to factor in the cost of the equipment, but also the cost of storing and processing video footage.

“It will require the likelihood of additional personnel,” Buzzuro said. “We have some ideas internally, and we can certainly update the commission.”

Mayor Rick Meehan told commission members it was a cost the town would have to bear to ensure the safety of both citizens and officers.

“I think we should accelerate this as soon as we can,” he said. “The mandate’s going to come in 2025 … I hope we move forward with this as quickly as possible because it’s going to take some time.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.