Montgomery County police apply for grant for body cameras

WASHINGTON — In the future, if you get pulled over by Montgomery County police, you just might be looking into a camera worn by a police officer.

The Montgomery County Police Department is applying for a grant to test what the department calls “body-worn cameras,” technology that puts a camera on eyeglasses or the uniform of a police officer.

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger says he’d want to be outfitted with a camera himself, “Just to get the feel for it, and get used to what it’s like.”

Manger says the county averages two to three police-involved shootings a year. The chief says as a direct result of the unrest in Ferguson, and the Department of Justice report findings on police conduct there, the next time there is a police-involved shooting in Montgomery County, he’d expect increased scrutiny.

Manger says right now, it’s not unusual for bystanders to record police doing their jobs, and police have had to adapt to that.

“And we’d better be doing our job correctly,” he says.

Montgomery County Council member Craig Rice, who is African American, said there is a great deal of interest in the body camera pilot in the minority community.  Rice asked Manger about how and when the cameras would be turned on.

“My concern is that there have been a lot of high profile incidents nationwide where technology hasn’t been utilized – whether it’s dash-mounted cameras or body cameras – that just weren’t turned on,” Rice told the chief.

Manger said that’s a concern he has as well, and it has to be included in departmental policy.

Another question that needs to be answered, Manger says, is how long the camera batteries will last.

“What you don’t want is to have the video camera working for the first seven hours [in a police officer’s shift],” he told council members. “And then in the last hour the battery’s done. Those are the kinds of things that certainly won’t engender confidence from the public – if those kinds of things happen.”

Manger says adding body cameras to the technology that officers use is not a replacement for good policing.

At a meeting with the Montgomery County Council’s Public Safety Committee, Assistant Chief Luther Reynolds echoed that sentiment when he said simply putting cameras on police officers will not result in increased public trust.

“Purchasing cameras and putting them on our officers is not going to create that,” Reynolds said.

Instead, Reynolds said, trust is gained one interaction at a time.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report. 

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