Prince George’s County patrol officers to get body cameras by year’s end

Rapid changes are being promised for the police body camera program in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Police Chief Hank Stawinski told Prince George’s County Council members on Wednesday that the goal is “to have every uniformed police officer on the street with a body camera by the end of this calendar year. Period. Full stop.”

That would involve equipping about 900 patrol officers with the cameras, Stawinski said.

That’s up from the 80 officers currently wearing the cameras as part of a pilot program. The department has a total of more than 1,500 sworn officers.

The lack of cameras gained more scrutiny after an officer who was not wearing a camera was charged in the January shooting death of a handcuffed man. Cpl. Michael Owen Jr. was charged with second-degree murder in connection to the death of William Green, 43, of Southeast D.C.

The Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Office also hopes to increase the number of cameras in use from 25 to 140 by the end of the year. Those cameras would be used for positions that involve interactions with citizens in “enforcement-type” activities, said Sheriff Melvin High.

The sheriff’s office has a 268 member sworn staff, High said. And, his office already possesses 150 cameras but has run into trouble coming up with the funds to administer the camera program.

Some of the currently-unused cameras may be loaned to the police department in the short term.

Back in 2018, High said he hoped to give body-worn cameras to all of his deputies by June 2019.

The increase in the number of functional body cameras in the county police department, sheriff’s office and department of corrections would come from $2.6 million in funding through the county budget, according to Mark Magaw, the county’s deputy chief administrative officer for public safety.

Though Stawinski said the program seemed simple — “buy a camera, stick it on someone, start recording, it’s all the things that support that, though, that are a challenge,” including video storage and access.

County council members urged law enforcement leaders to proceed with the programs despite the expense.

“I do know it’s costly. I get that,” said Council member Jolene Ivey. “But, there are other costs involved, like lawsuits and trust with the public, so it’s important that we go forward on this.”

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP.

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