LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — It has been a scene of violence and turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri these past few weeks, as witness and police accounts of what happened the night an unarmed 18-year-old died at the hands of a police officer continue to differ.
Public scrutiny of the use of deadly force by police officers has been common in our area recently, as well. Examples include the deadly shooting of a woman who lead police on a car chase through D.C. last October, and a man who died after being beaten by officers in Baltimore last July.
Now, police forces D.C. and Baltimore are both considering body cameras that can record officers’ interactions with the public.
Speaking with WNEW in May, Deputy Director of D.C.’s Office of Police Complaints, Christian Klossner, said the cameras “are emerging as an important tool in policing across the country.”
He says they can be lapel-mounted, chest-mounted or even mounted on glasses, and can serve as “an objective witness of sorts.”
Their presence can help prevent negative police-citizen interactions, and footage can be used for training purposes or as evidence in criminal cases.
Klossner’s office released a report earlier this year urging the Metropolitan Police Department to create an on-body camera program. D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier has said a program is one of the department’s top five priorities.
Now, WJZ reports, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has said her city’s police force is looking into the cameras, as well.
“If there’s an incident, it could be a teachable moment and we can learn from it,” Rawlings-Blake tells WJZ. “And both sides—public and police—are protected.”
Right now, the city is just in the preliminary stages of looking at how a camera program could benefit its police force.
One smaller local department, though, already uses body cameras.
The Laurel Police Department has had an on-body camera program for nearly two years, according to Chief Richard McLaughlin.
“Just the knowledge that the camera is there has de-escalated situations almost instantly,” he says.
He calls the cameras “a huge success” and says complaints about his officers have dropped, and training has improved.