FPD Body Camera

Frederick City Police Department Acting Captain and Deputy Chief Joe Hayer, commander of the special services bureau, handles one of the department's new Axon body-worn cameras Monday that will be deployed later this summer. At the end of each shift, the officer places their camera in this docking station where the video is downloaded and the unit is charged and secured.

Not long after protesters rallied outside the Frederick County Law Enforcement Center June 8 to demand police accountability and transparency, a petition appeared on Change.org calling for the sheriff's office to begin using body-worn cameras.

Launched by 16-year-old Alex Cumber, the petition — which had more than 3,800 signatures as of Monday — calls on Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner to include body-worn cameras for sheriff's deputies in the budget for fiscal year 2022. Citing data from the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent law enforcement research group, Cumber's petition covers a basic cost analysis for the equipment, and emphasizes the need for body cameras to ensure the safety and equal treatment of county residents and especially people of color, according to the website. 

"I want, eventually, [the petition] to be brought to the sheriff's attention that, even if this is something that [he] may not want implemented, the majority of the Frederick community would like to see it happen," Cumber said in an interview June 28.

Jenkins said his agency looked into purchasing body-worn cameras in 2016. The agency ran several training scenarios, including use-of-force situations, to allow the sheriff and his command staff to evaluate the cameras, Jenkins said. 

“We found many deficiencies in what the cameras actually captured. In force situations we were not getting the video we expected to get. Actions taken by deputies were not captured on video that you would expect would be captured,” Jenkins said. “That reinforces my belief that it is a mistake to rely on [the] technology. … The video did not capture entire sequences of events which is critical in investigating and reviewing uses of force.”

Jenkins also said body cameras can fall or be knocked off of officers and will sometimes fail to record. Jenkins said he determined that the cost of buying the cameras, the equipment to store data and potentially hire new staff to maintain the database outweighed "the very limited benefit" of the devices.

"The other part of the equation is the fact that we do not experience the types and numbers of situations in Frederick County that necessitate the implementation of body-worn cameras," Jenkins concluded.

Cumber acknowledged some camera footage, particularly during a physical struggle, can be unreliable. But with careful policy writing, an agency could ensure the cameras are used to put police interactions with members of the public into context, she said. For example, if an agency dictates that cameras be turned on before an officer makes contact with someone on a call, the information captured could be very useful.

"Every part of an incident, even leading up to a use of force is important to understand the situation and maybe the escalation of that situation,” she said. “Even words exchanged between an officer and a civilian can be incredibly important to finding out how that incident occurred and how the use of force started.”

FPD Body Camera

Frederick City Police Department Acting Captain and Deputy Chief Joe Hayer, commander of the special services bureau, views the beginning of an officer’s body-worn camera video at a secure work station Monday.

Frederick city officials, including commanders of Frederick Police Department, also differ with the sheriff when it comes to the benefits of body-worn cameras. City police rolled out the technology in 2016, the same year the sheriff's office completed its assessment. 

While not all of the department's hopes for the technology came true — agency commanders originally predicted the cameras would help reduce use-of-force numbers, which have actually increased each year since 2016 — the department stands by it decision to implement the technology. In fact, by the end of the summer, police commanders plan to add close to 60 new cameras to its initial compliment of 18 chest-mounted devices. 

Moving beyond the data captured by the cameras, acting Chief Patrick Grossman said the cameras provide other important benefits to police agencies, especially at a time when tensions are high and law enforcement is under intense scrutiny. 

"There are so many facets to a body camera program. It provides a multitude of things, from an evidentiary standpoint to providing proof beyond a reasonable doubt in court," Grossman said. "It also provides a level of transparency for a public agency like the police department. [The cameras] can help us build and maintain credibility within the community, and that's incredibly important."

Jenkins was not alone in his opposition to body cameras, however. Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith has argued against adding more body-worn cameras to area police agencies.

FPD Body Camera

The Frederick City Police Department currently has 18 body-worn cameras in use by patrol officers. That number will increase as they deploy more cameras.

Smith’s conclusion weighs the cost of implementing the technology, along with the cost of storing the data and the expense to review the footage prior to its use in court against the “marginal benefit” the cameras provide, he said.

“Yes, they have benefit, especially to dispel or confirm reports of police use of force. But what looks to be millions of dollars in the long term to primarily aid in a handful of cases does not make sense to me, especially with the proliferation of camera phones,” Smith said.

As a direct result of the Frederick Police Department adding new cameras, Smith said he was forced to request $353,512 be added to the state’s attorney’s office’s budget. A total of $7,205 was needed for new technology to review and store the footage and $346,307 was to hire an additional assistant state’s attorney and four investigators, according to data provided by the state’s attorney’s office.

On the other hand, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office accepts the expense of county police using body cameras, said Ramón V. Korionoff, that office’s public affairs director.

“The Montgomery County SAO supports the use of [body-worn cameras] by law enforcement. The benefits do outweigh the costs: the public is protected, the police have a record of how well their officers have interacted with the public and we often have video evidence in our prosecutions," Korionoff said in an email.

Sheriff Jenkins

Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins

Rather than resisting county elected officials' decision to fund cameras for police officers, Montgomery County prosecutors tried to work as closely as possible with police to prepare their budgets and determine what additional expenses would be reasonable for the implementation and continued use of the technology, Korionoff said.

As of 2020, approximately 950 Montgomery County police officers were trained and equipped with body cameras, according to Sgt. Rebecca Innocenti, a department spokeswoman. Each officer is equipped with two cameras, one of which is worn while the other is left charging at a district station. The department also has spare cameras, bringing the total number of cameras to 2,096, Innocenti said.

Montgomery County police also employ one full-time quality assurance professional, a sworn officer and four additional civilian staff in its body-worn camera program, according to Innocenti’s data.

The department’s set-up was designed to ensure the maximum possible number of camera-equipped officers were assigned to a given shift.

“Forward-facing officers that are in uniform and interact with the public on a daily basis wear a camera. This includes every patrol officer who is on a shift in a police district. So, every officer on a shift wears a camera,” Innocenti wrote in an email.

Cumber said she would like to see such complete coverage in Frederick County. But even taking steps toward implementing a program, like Frederick Police Department did in 2016, would be a positive step for the sheriff's office, she said.

Body cameras aren't the only solution, Cumber said. But, until more holistic solutions arise to decrease use-of-force incidents and police violence they're a beneficial tool, she said. 

"Body cameras are necessary to hold not only the police accountable with the amount of power they have, but just to make sure that they're staying safe with the community," Cumber said.

Follow Jeremy Arias on Twitter: @Jarias_Prime

Jeremy Arias is the Frederick city and government reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(25) comments

mrnatural1

You know Jenkins and Smith are on the wrong side of this issue when the comments are almost unanimously in opposition to their pathetic excuses as to why deputies should not wear cameras.

LeonardKeepers

with law enforcement so much under scrutiny i would think our leader would push as hard as they could to have officers wear body cams and not scream so much about the cost of the cameras.

TRADEINF

Why do we keep suing ourselves over police misconduct? The police union should be liable for their members misdeeds.

armillary

The sheriff position is it's cheaper that the public think his department has something to hide, than to wear body cameras and remove all doubt.

DickD

There's no doubt a body camera is a two edge sword. Still, if it reduces the unnecessary use of force and saves lives, they are worth the price of using them.

vodalone

I thought it was standard operating procedure to have a body cam, I'm really surprised it isn't in Fred Co. 100% support of body cams, for safety of citizens and officers alike.

shiftless88

Of course Chuckles doesn't want them because they have a big factor in LEO accountability. Note his quote that the test "reinforces his belief" that they weren't any good. That was not a test; it was him looking for reasons to say no. Of course they aren't perfect but the key is police accountability.

bosco

If I were in law enforcement today, I would be begging to wear a body cam. It help separate the average citizen from the idiots in a hurry.

[ninja]

DickD

Absolutely right Bosco. Police officers should be respected too.

KellyAlzan

As i get elected sheriff of

Frederick co, I will consider cameras.

I am putting together a sheriff elect committee, and I have some deputies and a member of command staff that are advising me on this very issue.

DickD

You aren't going to support Bickle?

KR999

Bickle? [lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol][lol]

DickD

He who laughs last, laughs best. [scared][scared][lol][lol]

KR999

DickD Apr 21, 2016 1:04pm

Thank you very much, Karl. Next time, we get you elected, if you are willing.

[lol][lol][lol][lol][lol]

DickD

If you mean me, CD. I am not willing.

Rockfish

I have no problem with police wearing body cameras but the cost is very high. Is the cost worth the benefit? Montgomery County's program is $1,000,000 a year. https://wtop.com/montgomery-county/2017/04/13311231/

public-redux

You have to factor in the potential savings of not paying out millions more in damages and lawsuits.

gabrielshorn2013

Agreed Rockfish. It also protects the deputies from frivolous claims, the same as dash-cams do for moving violations. I have one mounted in my vehicle, just in case. If the public demands that body-cams be used, they shouldn't whine when the bill comes due (like the other letter in today's FNP regarding SROs. The public demanded them, so they are there). I still don't understand the court's legal reasoning why the States Attorney must be proactive in providing a defendant with the footage of their encounter, instead of providing it upon request. That is what caused Mr. Smith to request the budget increase. The service is not free, and somebody has to pay the bill.

Also, there are many undocumented issues of civilians popping off at officers, but the officers in their training are taught to take it. Maybe body-cams could be used to record such behavior, and a weekly "winner" be posted on the web. "America's Funniest Home Videos", or "Jackass" come to mind.

LeonardKeepers

this day and age i would think it is a must for a police officer to wear a body cam

Piedmontgardener

And the State's Attorney's comments are a joke - decent body camera footage would just end up upending his trial records vs. arrests and restore to local citizens a guarantee that any stop or encounter with law enforcement met up with Constitutional and Maryland Declaration of Rights guarantees of citizen's rights. Make no mistake, I respect the hell of out of law enforcement, they have a very hard job, but they have to do it by the rules of the 4th Amendment,the Equal Protection Clause and the rest of the Federal Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights- if a camera makes that too hard - that means they don't won't to do their jobs legally. Embarrassing comments from both elected officials in this article, they should have no commented if they couldn't restrain themselves from this stupidity. Time for both to go.

mrnatural1

Excellent comment Piedmont! Well said! [thumbup][thumbup]

Piedmontgardener

This isn't even an argument - A 16 year old has checkmated the Sheriff here, congrats, young man. Jenkins' comments on this article are dissembling garbage, the technology is here and available, he just doesn't want the accountability.

leximarch

It’s actually a young lady.

Piedmontgardener

She's quite impressive. Thanks

jschaeberle

Way to go Alex!

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