Baltimore police to start wearing body cameras

The cameras will be deployed in five phases through January 2018

Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Hundreds of Baltimore police officers will start wearing body cameras in May while on patrol.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced at a news conference Thursday that the city is finalizing an $11.6 million contract with Taser International that includes 2,500 cameras and storage.

The cameras will be deployed in five phases through January 2018. Rawlings-Blake says the company will also store footage from transport van cameras.

Last year, Baltimore erupted in unrest after Freddie Gray died from injuries he suffered in a police van. Other departments across the country are being urged to use cameras in light of several fatal shootings by police.

The deal goes to the Board of Estimates next week for final approval.

Davis said the presence of body cameras "compels, enhances and encourages civility" and there will be consequences for officers who misuse the cameras.

The details are "still being ironed out," the mayor said.

David Rocah, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, released a statement voicing concerns about officers being allowed to view the footage captured by their own body camera.

"Allowing officers under investigation access to their own body camera footage before being questioned or making a statement about the incident destroys the integrity of the investigation," the statement read. "Once an officer has viewed the footage, there is no way for an investigator to know whether the officer's statements are truthful, whether their memory is accurate, or whether their perception is accurate."

Department spokesman T.J. Smith said allowing officers to view footage is in line with the field's best practices, and that the cameras are equipped with anti-tampering technology.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press

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