Body cameras to be included in Howard County’s proposed budget

Money is tight, but body cameras for police in Howard County, Maryland, have been prioritized, which is why funding for the cameras will be included in the 2022 budget proposal.

“It is of critical importance that every member of every one of our communities not only is safe, but feels safe,” County Executive Calvin Ball said. “Prioritizing public safety and reinforcing public trust remains a priority.”

Full funding to launch the program is included in the proposed budget.

Ball said his proposal allocates between $3.2 million and approximately $3.3 million for implementation of the program, which would include Howard County police, the Sheriff’s Office and staffing adjustments needed within the State’s Attorney’s Office.

The police department would hire 10 people — three officers and seven civilians — and the State’s Attorney’s Office would add 13 new positions. The Sheriff’s Office would receive cameras for 70 deputies.

A body-worn camera pilot program first was announced in Howard County in July 2017.

Applauding what she said has been a long time coming, Howard County Police Chief Lisa D. Myers said the pilot program yielded benefits beyond accountability and transparency.

“Footage from body-worn cameras also serve as an excellent training tool for us to train and retrain officers when necessary,” she said.

On July 1, the beginning of the new fiscal year, Myers said the department will begin acquiring equipment, training officers and hiring people for the program. It is expected that cameras could be worn by the department’s 300 officers by early 2022, if not sooner.

Funding for the program is subject to review and approval by the Howard County Council, which begins working on the 2022 budget next month.

Responding to WTOP inquiries, a majority of the five-member council signaled support for the measure: Council Chair Liz Walsh, of District 1; Council Vice Chair Opel Jones, of District 2; Council member Christiana Rigby, of District 3; and Council member Deb Jung, of District 4.

“Body-worn cameras are an important tool to enhance transparency and community trust with police, and this announcement reflects community priorities,” Rigby said in an email.

Jones said in an email, “Providing every community support and transparency is imperative for resident’s personal and public safety.”

“This program provides an increased level of confidence and security for the community, accountability and training opportunities for the police, and evidence-gathering features to help solve and prosecute crimes,” Jung said.

Walsh called the announcement “great news,” and in an email said she’s in favor of full implementation of body-worn cameras in the county “as soon as reasonably possible.”

Walsh noted, however, “It’s hard to get into too many specifics having heard of this encouraging development only today, and not having any sense yet of where the Executive is heading with the rest of his capital and operating budgets.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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