Civic News

Criticism of cameras tracking Baltimore Fire Department drivers cuts two ways

The city says cameras inside fire engines are saving the city money. But a pair of local reports indicate there's also the human side to consider.

Two-way cameras in firetrucks: An upgrade? (Photo by Flickr user NikiSublime, used under a Creative Commons license)

In 2014, two-way cameras were installed inside Baltimore city fire trucks and medic units to monitor drivers. The idea was to encourage drivers to be safer, and save money by decreasing the number of accidents.
A pair of local news reports examined the results last week, two years later.
Through a public records request, Fox45 obtained footage of 11 clips that show “risky behavior,” including distracted driving that nearly leads to accidents, according to reporter Joy Lepola Stewart.
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Despite the caught-on-camera episodes that seem to indicate erratic driving is still happening, Baltimore Fire Department officials said the cameras save money in the long term, including $300,000 in worker’s compensation

A union representing firefighters and medics has its own concerns about the ever-present cameras. A separate report by ABC2 focuses on concerns from the firefighters’ union that the cameras are the source of unnecessary enforcement of a city traffic law that requires drivers come to a full-stop at intersections, even with sirens on. The penalties are unnecessarily harsh, including five days out of work for multiple violations, Baltimore City Fire Union Local 734 President Rick Hoffman tells the station.
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The report also provides details about the cameras. They start to record automatically when there is an accident, but also a hard stop or sharp turn. They record eight seconds before that point of force, and four seconds after. In response to this report, the fire department added that they also enforce requirements around stop signs and seat belts.
The department once again reiterated that the camera program is saving the city money, but the reports show that there’s also the drivers to consider.

Companies: Baltimore Fire Department / City of Baltimore

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