WASHINGTON — The Baltimore County Police Department is facing criticism for its decision to withhold body camera footage in connection with several officer-involved shootings, including fatal altercations, that have occurred since January.
Officers shot six people in four separate incidents since the beginning of the year, and the department has released footage from just one of the cases.
Video captured by body cameras in the other three cases has been withheld from the public.
“The commitment to transparency and accountability that the body cameras were supposed to represent looks more like lip service than an actual commitment,” said attorney David Rocah with the ACLU of Maryland.
County police were involved in fatal shootings in January and March, as well as a pair of nonfatal shootings this month.
Camera footage was released from the January incident. Prosecutors, police and other county officials have said releasing video from the other cases could jeopardize the integrity of ongoing investigations.
A spokeswoman for the police department, Elise Armacost, told The Baltimore Sun that making the footage public “could compromise the prosecution and the defendants’ right to fair trials.”
The same reason was provided by Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
“Footage from police body cameras has been and will continue to be released without delay as soon as it can be determined that the release of the footage will not compromise an ongoing investigation,” Kobler said to The Sun.
But some call that explanation inadequate.
“The whole idea of these cameras is that it allows us to have an independent witness to police behavior. That’s particularly important in these use of force situations,” Rocah said. “Without the body camera footage being released, we can’t even have that discussion.”
The county’s department first starting using body cameras last July.
Many police departments all across the D.C. metro area use the wearable cameras, including those in the District and in Montgomery County. In Fairfax County, officers will begin testing body cameras later this year.