(Photo courtesy of American Civil Liberties Union of Washington)
Three companies were selected to participate in a pilot program that looks to let the Baltimore Police Department try out body cameras.
During the pliot program, which is set to run from Oct. 26-Dec. 18, 155 officers from three of the city’s police districts (Eastern, Western and Central) will wear the cameras provided by the three vendors. The cameras will be worn on every shift, and footage will be uploaded to a digital storage service.
At the end of the pilot, the city will select a single vendor to run the program. A total of 10 companies submitted bids.
National activists against police brutality have called for police departments to begin outfitting officers with body cameras to improve transparency. Just as President Barack Obama was issuing a similar call last fall, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake vetoed legislation drawn up by the City Council to implement body cameras locally. But she later convened a working group that set the parameters for the pilot.
Last week, Freddie Gray’s parents brought the spotlight back to the issue when they called for police to be outfitted with body cameras. In comments about a $6.4 million city settlement with the 25-year-old’s family, their attorney Billy Murphy praised Rawlings-Blake for piloting the cameras in the Western District, where Gray was arrested and sustained injuries while in police custody that later resulted in his death.
“By starting this body camera pilot program in Freddie’s neighborhood, she honors Freddie’s memory. Because we all agree, he should not have died,” Murphy said.
Here are the three vendors and the cameras they’re working with:
Taser International will use the Axon body camera and Amazon Web Services for storage. The camera offers a 130-degree wide-angle lens, and can attach to a zipper, shirt pocket, button shirt or belt. The list price from Taser’s website is $399.
Atlantic Tactical is offering the Vievu LE-4 camera with Microsoft Azure storage service. The New Cumberland, Pa., company offers the LE-3 camera for $899. The LE-4 appears to be the latest model.
The Hanover-based Brekfrod Corporation is offering the Panasonic Arbitrator camera with Microsoft Azure for storage. The camera itself offers a 130-degree view, and 720p HD video resolution. Brekford, the vendor, was involved with the city’s red-light camera program. According to the Baltimore Sun, the city paid a $600,000 settlement to end the company’s contract to operate red light cameras in 2013.
The announcement from Rawlings-Blake comes on the same day that Baltimore County announced its body camera plan. The County is planning to deploy 150 cameras by July 2016, with the rest of the department’s 1,435 officers getting outfitted by July 2017. The program will cost $7.1 million, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said.
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