(Image via the Baltimore Police Department)
The Baltimore Police Department’s body camera program would get a two-year contract extension if a proposal goes through this week.
According to the agenda for this week’s city Board of Estimates meeting, the city is proposing an additional $6.8 million in spending for the body cameras. The new agreement would extend the contract with supplier Axon International for 2.5 years beyond 2021. With approval of the extension, the contract would run through Oct. 31, 2023. The Baltimore Sun first reported the proposal.
“The benefits for the City for entering into the Third Amendment include maintaining existing favorable discounts for an additional 2.5 years, eliminating $11,400.00 in costs for the City State’s Attorney’s Office and deferring a $2.7 million dollar payment due in March 2018 until July 2018,” the agenda states.
In 2016, Baltimore chose Axon International (then called Taser International) for the body camera program after a pilot phase and initially signed on for a five-year contract worth $11.6 million. The police department was then tasked with phasing in body cameras for 2,500 officers. The contract also included support and storage.
Body cameras were touted by officials as a tool in police accountability, and have since provided video of police-involved shootings. Footage has also played a role in the department’s recent police misconduct scandals, such as in a trio of videos that appeared to show officers planting drugs and tampering with crime scenes. In one case, body cameras captured footage automatically through a feature that saves recordings 30 seconds prior to an officer turning the camera on. Officers are now required by policy to keep cameras on for an entire incident.
While the cameras provided footage, the new technology’s role in changing behavior of police has come under question recently. A recent study of police in D.C. found that the cameras didn’t result in any significant change in police behavior there.
UPDATE (3/27/18, 1:30 p.m.) As the Baltimore Brew notes, the agenda also includes a new hire to review body camera footage, submit audit reports and report potential misconduct. Shannon L. Burleson would be paid $45,000 for a one-year contract, according to the documents. The position will also include creating electronic case folders of footage to be used as evidence.
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