Police Body Camera Bill Approved by Baltimore City Council

Baltimore police officers may soon be equipped with body cameras, after the City Council voted on Monday to make the equipment a requirement for every officer in the city.

The councilman behind the body camera bill, Warren Branch, has said that an overwhelming number of Baltimore residents have reached out to him personally, arguing that body cameras will help prevent police brutality. A driving force behind the recent push for body cameras was the death of Tyrone West, who died while in police custody, and another incident caught on camera that revealed a suspect being severely beaten by an officer.

While the bill may have good intentions, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has said that she will immediately veto it as soon as it hits her desk. She believes that body cameras have their place in the police force, but says that the bill was written too hastily and is full of legal flaws.

“I refuse to roll out a program that has not been carefully thought through. I’d rather be thoughtful and right than fast and wrong…. If I have to stand alone in making sure we get this right in Baltimore, then I will,” said the Mayor, according to the Baltimore Sun.

In the 12-1 vote over the legislation, City Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector was the only one to vote against it, saying that the measure is illegal.

After a consultant’s report from last year recommended that the city do a trial run of police body cameras, Mayor Rawlings-Blake proposed a plan to stop police brutality that included the creation of a task force to study the effectiveness of the cameras. Of the three council members she asked to be on the task force, only one accepted.

Over 70% of state and highway police currently have in-car cameras, but in the past neither in-car or body cameras have been common among local police departments.

Recently, more and more local agencies across the country are adopting legislation to require in-car and body camera implementation. The sudden increase has been strongly driven by the shooting of an unarmed teen by a police officer in Ferguson, MO over the summer.


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