Major Push Ahead On Body Camera Use

Major Push Ahead On Body Camera Use

All efforts are moving forward with police body camera use in Ocean City, but questions surround how well the program will work this summer.

Though the Ocean City Mayor and Council was right to move ahead with the contract and purchase approval this week, concerns abound over whether the infrastructure and logistics surrounding body camera use are on schedule for implementation.

Unfunded mandates from the legislature are always fretted over, but the body camera requirement is more complex than most. Ocean City is far ahead of the deadline of 2025 with its body camera plan. Ocean City police leaders have spent the last several months trialing different vendors and evaluating contracts while county officials are working to accommodate and review the voluminous footage as cases surge  in June.

Worcester County State’s Attorney Kris Heiser was blunt in November about the body camera impact, saying,  “Our workload will increase exponentially. Every case will have a video associated with it. Probably more than one video. Once agencies go live with these body cameras it’ll be like drinking from a fire hose for our team at the state’s attorney’s office. There would be no way we could keep up with that volume.”

The county ultimately approved 12 new positions for the State’s Attorney Office to help handle the expected load as well as other interoffice prosecution needs. A potential satellite office location may be needed in Ocean City to help with the effort. Complicating the matter further will be the onboarding of body camera use by the Maryland State Police in 2023 and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office in 2025. It’s clear body cameras are coming with the expense of physically buying them as well as the toll of dealing with the video that may or may not be utilized in criminal investigations as well as answering questions about police misconduct.

The benefits to having body cameras in place outweigh the concerns at this point. Several Ocean City police officers were thrust into the national spotlight last summer after their use of force against suspects was caught on cell phone video. The snippets painted a picture outside of reality. There were actions from the suspects, like spitting and vulgar language, precipitating the police’s actions. Cameras will help diffuse these situations with footage able to add perspective and clarify situations caught on tape by bystanders.

Body cameras are needed, but the county and city need to get aggressive now with trialing them through mock incidents and creating new procedures to follow. The timeline is short, but the to-do list is long.

About The Author: Steven Green

Alternative Text

The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.