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Body Cameras 101: City officers get trained

  In a classroom on the top floor of the Baltimore Police Academy in Park Heights, Sgt. Habib Kim is teaching a group of about two dozen officers the do’s, the don’ts and the here’s how it all works of police worn body cameras.

“When you’re writing the report before you close everything out – make sure you review the footage,” he tells the officers.  “In time between the actual arrest or the actual incident or back at the district – already – your memory starts getting a little faulty.”

The officers wondered how the cameras affected their rights under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, or if they could turn off the camera if someone says they are uncomfortable being recorded.

Kim told them it had no effect on their rights. And yes, they could turn it off if someone asks. Just be sure to record the request.

His message to the officers who received their cameras was to “be professional” and “respect the people who are in the video.”

This was the academy’s second body camera training class Friday; the first one was held earlier in the week.

During the session, officers received the camera policy, their cameras – the Taser Axon Body 2 and their department issued Samsung Galaxy smartphones.

Officer Anthony Ward, a four-year veteran, was among those tried out the cameras in the department’s pilot program last December when he was a patrolman in the Western District.

He said the camera was simple to use, caused no problems and is durable.

“I had a few foot chases and stuff where there was a potential where it could have possibly fallen off,” said Ward, who will be part of a new unit that will look at recorded footage; similar to the NFL’s instant replay department.

He said the unit will “[make] sure that the footage has been documented[, titled and categorized] correctly” and will be liaison’s to the State’s Attorney’s Office.

The cameras arrived in the beginning of May, but they were not deployed until logistics and training plans were in place.

“We want to get it right the first time,” said Maj. Marc Partee, the department’s director of education and training.  “We don’t want it to be like a blinking VCR.  We want the officers to use the cameras efficiently and effectively.”

So far, Partee said he has not heard of any major growing pains; just minor issues such as “where to put the camera, which mount to use; whether the magnetic mount or the mount you put on your shirt.”

He called the body cameras a “win-win.”  Citizens and officers will be more civil towards each other.  And the cameras remove the mystery of what happens when the two sides interact.