OCEAN CITY – Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro said his department is actively seeking vendors and testing equipment for a body-worn camera system, but warned resort leaders this week its implementation would be a costly endeavor.
In a meeting of the Ocean City Police Commission on Monday, Buzzuro said the department was moving forward in its efforts to adopt the use of body-worn cameras by next summer. He said the agency has not only formed a committee, but has met with two camera vendors.
“This past weekend we started out introducing cameras on a trial basis as we start to make our decision as to which vendor we will inevitably go with,” he told resort officials this week. “So all is moving along very, very well, and at a good pace. We’re optimistic and we’re looking forward to body-worn cameras.”
Earlier this year, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation mandating law enforcements agencies to wear body-worn cameras to document their interactions with the public. While departments have until 2025 to adopt the use of body-worn cameras, the Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) reported it is hoping to launch a program by the start of next season.
“We’re shooting for next summer,” Capt. Mike Colbert told commission members last month. “It’s an aggressive timeframe, but talking to all the players involved we think we can do it if that’s what the city wants to do. We’re going to set ourselves up so that we can be in the position to do that.”
When asked this week if implementing a program in 2022 was still feasible, Buzzuro said it was.
“By the end of the year we should have a pretty good idea of which vendor,” he said. “It’s a costly endeavor but we certainly should be ready to have that implemented and in use for the summer season in 2022.”
Buzzuro said he would come before the Mayor and Council with cost estimates when they are made available. While resort officials said they would work with the Eastern Shore delegation to explore funding options, resort resident Larry Yates told commission members this week he was eager to help launch a community fundraising effort.
“I’ll start spearheading and talk to the business community and any residential groups and see if we can help in any way,” he said.
Mayor Rick Meehan told Yates he supported the idea.
“That will be a great community effort,” he said.
By way of background, earlier this summer the OCPD began a discussion on the implementation of body-worn cameras after a series of 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 the online circulation of cell phone footage showing snippets of the incidents. In the days that followed, the state’s Office of the Public Defender called on Ocean City’s police department to expedite its use of body-worn cameras.