ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Calvin Ball has signed a budget amendment (SAO1-FY2022) releasing nearly $500,000 in County funding from contingency in the FY2022 operating budget for Howard County’s body-worn camera program. The County Council voted unanimously to approve the County Executive’s budget amendment at its October 4th Legislative Session. Ball plans to use $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) to provide funding for the body-worn camera program immediately. With funding in place, the body-worn camera program will be fully implemented ahead of the 2023 Maryland General Assembly mandate.
I am pleased that the County Council unanimously approved my budget amendment to release these much needed public safety funds out of contingency. The use of County and American Rescue Plan funds will ensure that the body-worn camera program can be fully implemented before the end of the 2022 fiscal year. When this program is fully implemented, Howard County’s officers and our community will have another vital tool that helps uphold security, transparency, and justice for all.
Following the filing of the County Executive’s proposed budget, the State-mandated maintenance of effort (MOE) funding level for the school system was significantly higher than anticipated, prompting adjustments to the proposed budget. At the conclusion of the budget process, the Howard County Council voted to place all remaining funding proposed for the body-worn camera program into contingency. The Ball Administration addressed programmatic and staffing questions from the Council throughout the budget process in April and May, and again during a program presentation to the County Council at the end of June. In August, the County Executive announced his plan to combine the $1 million in preliminary funding for equipment and licensing set aside during the FY2022 budget cycle, the nearly $500,000 in contingency, and the additional $1.6 million to fully fund this program. This total of $3.1 million in funding will go towards:
- Hiring 26 essential positions across the Police Department, State’s Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office,
- 600 cameras for 300 HCPD officers
- Expanded storage capacity and acquiring necessary software
- Procuring additional equipment for deputies within the Sheriff’s department
Body worn cameras will help increase transparency and reinforce accountability for officers and citizens in police interactions. This program is the culmination of years of research and planning by many of our HCPD sworn and civilian staff. We are ready to hit the ground running, ordering and installing equipment, training officers, hiring administrative staff and tackling many other tasks to prepare for implementation in the months ahead.
“Body-worn camera’s serve as a promising tool to help analyze cases and protect the truth of what occurs in our society,” said State’s Attorney Rich Gibson. “I am grateful to County Executive Calvin Ball and the County Council for providing the necessary funding that will allow us to implement the program in a proper way for the benefit of our community. We will now begin the process of hiring the right people, acquiring the necessary equipment, and training our office to properly handle this new mode of evidence."
“Providing transparency and building trust with our community are two of my main objectives as a law enforcement leader. Body Worn Cameras are a tool in meeting those objectives,” said Sheriff Marcus Harris. “The Sheriff’s Office is ready to get the ball rolling by hiring new personnel, purchasing the required equipment and providing the necessary training for our deputies.”
While serving on the County Council in 2015, Ball sponsored legislation establishing a committee within the HCPD Citizens Advisory Council to conduct a policing report with best practices for officer and community safety. The report’s top recommendation was to implement a body-worn program, however, at the time, there were challenges with implementation due to cost. The pilot program, which launched in the summer of 2017 and concluded in the Fall of 2018, found three major barriers to instituting the program. In addition to budgetary concerns, a lack of adequate storage space and staffing was identified.
County Executive Ball announced in June of 2020 that the County would revisit the program and develop solutions to overcome the previously cited challenges for implementation. The County program covers 300 Howard County Police Department (HCPD) uniformed officers that have direct and regular contact with the public. HCPD anticipates using the vendor from its one-year pilot program, Axon, and expects to immediately begin acquiring equipment and conducting training for officers with the funding that has become available due to the County Executive’s approval of the budget amendment.