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Body cameras: almost there

P. Kenneth Burns

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Thursday the details of a contract to buy body cameras for police officers and plans for officers to begin wearing them.

The mayor said the city will pay Taser International $11.6 million over five years for 2,500 cameras. The Board of Estimates is expected to approve the contract Wednesday. 

The first 500 cameras will be given to officers across all nine police districts May 1, one year after six officers were charged with the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody.

Deputy City Solicitor David Ralph, who was on the mayor’s body camera task force, said the cameras will leave an audit trail to show if a camera has been tampered with and if one had been turned off.

The final price was more than a million dollars less than Taser had bid.  The mayor said City Purchasing Chief Tim Krus was a “tough” negotiator.

“He looks really, really nice, but he’s tough as an ‘I don’t know what’ when you close the doors,” she said.

For his part, Krus said the city was “able to point a few things out” during negotiations with the Arizona-based company that cut the price.

Rawlings-Blake said the city will also receive “enhancements” like storing camera footage from police vans at no additional cost.

Baltimore County also has a police body camera contract with Taser. The county announced an eight-year $12.5 million deal, including three one-year options, for 1,435 cameras last September. The first 150 cameras are to be distributed in July.