Baltimore Police launched Monday their body camera pilot program by sharing how the program will go for the next 54 days.
At the end of the program, the department will award a contract in Feb. 2016 and begin assigning officers who are on patrol or have regular interactions with the public.
Deputy Commissioner Dean Palmere said a program will be fully implemented by 2018.
There will be three cameras from different vendors that will be tested by 155 officers in the Central, Eastern and Western districts.
The officers participating in the pilot program either volunteered or were recommended by commanders.
Officer Hannah Parrish, who works in the Western District, volunteered to be a part of the program because of the current “climate of policing.”
“There’s two sides to every story and it’s not often that the police officer side comes out and it will be good for the community, too,” Parrish said in recalling what another officer told her. She and her colleagues in the Western District will be testing Axon Body camera from Taser International.
Officers in the Central District will be testing the Panasonic Arbitrator BWC from Brekford Corporation. Brekford was the company that ran the city’s troubled speed and red light camera program.
Eastern District officers will be testing the Vie-Vu-LE4 from Atlantic Tactical.
Officers participating in the program will help shape program policies as well as which camera system works best.
“Their candid feedback on the strengths and deficiencies of different camera models as well as policy and procedure governing the use of them will contribute to decisions made by the agency in the next several months,” said Col. Melissa Hyatt, patrol division chief.
The pilot program is beginning one year after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake convened a work group to come up with recommendations for implementing a body camera program.
Recommendations released last February called for a six month pilot program to begin in November.
Mayoral spokesman Howard Libit said Rawlings-Blake spent several months pushing for an accelerated timeline. One factor in wanting an accelerated timeline was the April death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray from a severe spinal cord injury obtained while in police custody.
An attempt by the City Council to require body cameras sooner was vetoed by the mayor. She said the council’s proposal was not thoroughly thought out.
Council President Jack Young, who co-sponsored the council’s bill, tweeted he is glad body cameras are coming but said the cameras “shouldn’t take two years to implement.”