The Baltimore County Police Department, in a move to regain public trust, has ordered Taser International’s Axon body cameras for its officers.
The department announced on Jan. 21 it chose Taser’s brand of body camera after a successful pilot program that left several officers excited about how the technology can improve their job performance.
The pilot program began in October 2015, with three different camera systems being worn by 150 Baltimore police officers across three different districts. The Taser brand got the highest grades, receiving “zero” negative feedback, giving the city enough confidence to invest in what will be an expensive purchase.
“One mistake can cost the taxpayer millions,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake told WJZ-TV. “This pilot program has given us the confidence that we are finding the right solutions for Baltimore.”
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The Maryland city was the focus of national attention after the high-profile death of Freddie Gray, a young African-American who died in police custody in April 2015. After a series of protests, some of which turned into riots, the Baltimore Police Department has been trying to find new ways to hold officers accountable and rebuild public trust.
The new protocol would have officers announce that they have a live body camera recording when they arrive on the scene and ask the suspect if he or she would like the camera to remain on or off.
According to Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, this new method of law enforcement tested positively during the pilot program. According to the officers who tested out the camera, it helps put civilians at ease.
“The interactions are less confrontational when everyone realizes -- and when I say everyone, I’m including the cops in this -- when there’s a camera on the scene,” Davis told The Associated Press. “It makes our interactions with each other that much better. And police officers say they’re really happy that it reveals the entire story.”
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The department has struck an eight-year contract with Taser International, ordering both 1,455 body cameras and a data storage system. The new upgrades will cost $12.5 million and it will be in July 2017 that more than 1,400 officers will be wearing these new gadgets, The Baltimore Sun reports.
The data storage system will be able to store all of the police recordings for up to four years.
The department hopes this pricey upgrade will be a crucial step forward in repairing relations between the people of Baltimore and their police.
“We think it makes us better,” said Davis. “We think it makes interactions we have with citizens better. It holds us accountable. It certainly captures things. It’s just where we are in American policing, and we’re proud to be on the forefront of it.”