May 2023 Update
Since receiving funding from Howard County Executive Calvin Ball in Fiscal Year 2022, the HCPD has equipped all sworn officers with body worn cameras. After many months of research and development, including input from stakeholders and community groups, the BWC program was launched in the field in August 2022. The department spent many months drafting policy that follows best practices from agencies around the country. They hired additional staff needed to handle the administrative side of this large-scale program and all officers received detailed training on the use of the technology. The program has been well-received throughout the community and the agency in a partnership that offers transparency about police interactions with the public.
Beginning on Aug. 15, 2022, all uniformed Howard County Police Department officers who regularly interact with members of the public are required to wear and operate body worn cameras (BWCs). This included Patrol, Community Outreach, School Resource Officers, Traffic Investigations, and Tactical.
Body worn cameras are just around the corner in Howard County! The equipment is in, training is underway and new BWC administrative staff members are finalizing preparations. We will be working through the summer to launch the BWC program.
After many months of research and development, including input from stakeholders and community groups, the HCPD BWC policy is complete! It has been posted on our website and is available to read in full here: ADM 31 - Body Worn Cameras
In our ongoing commitment to transparency, we have developed a list of frequently asked questions, including information about camera activation, privacy issues, video release and more.
It won't be long before members of our community start to see body worn cameras on officers in the field. The HCPD appreciates all the support we have received in development of this program and we will continue to keep you posted!
The cameras are here! HCPD has just received body worn cameras (BWC) for 300 uniformed officers. With the equipment in-hand, we can now create the infrastructure and implement administrative efforts to get the program running as soon as possible.
The county is installing new data lines to connect the BWC docking stations at police facilities. This will provide the framework needed to dock, charge and download videos from the cameras. They are also installing required equipment in each patrol vehicle to enable the BWC technology.
The BWC policy committee is meeting this month as work continues on a policy for the police chief’s review and approval. The committee has used model policies from other successful BWC programs to ensure best practices for our agency. HCPD leaders have also been meeting with various stakeholders and community groups for input and discussion about the BWC program and policy.
The HCPD Information Management Division has hired new administrative employees who will help run the BWC program behind the scenes. They will be responsible for handling Public Information Act requests and reviewing video before it is released. These employees will undertake extensive training, to include practical exercises that will help prepare them when the cameras are deployed into the field.
Body worn camera training is scheduled to begin in late May for all uniformed officers. We expect to have all the necessary components in place to fully equip and train our members by then. As we move forward, we will continue to keep you posted about our progress!
Body worn cameras are coming to Howard County! The process is underway to have cameras on uniformed officers as soon as possible. As in many industries, there have been supply chain issues causing delays in receiving the BWC equipment. But in the meantime, we’ve been busy getting ready behind the scenes!
While we wait for the cameras to arrive, we have been drafting policy that follows best practices from agencies around the country. Our HR team has been working hard to hire the additional staff needed to handle the administrative side of this large-scale program. And we have been scheduling training sessions for the officers so they can hit the ground running once we have the technology in-hand.
We are doing our best to be patient but are anxious to get the BWC program underway. We appreciate your support and will continue keep you updated throughout the implementation process.
In 2021, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced the implementation of a body worn camera program would be funded in Fiscal Year 2022.
The program includes the following for the Howard County Police Department:
- Cameras for 300 uniformed officers
- New Body Worn Camera Division and Video Management Section
- 10 new positions (three sworn, seven civilian)
- Extensive training for every sworn member and many civilians
- Equipment acquisition
October 2021 News Release: Howard County Executive Signs Budget Amendment to Fund Body-Worn Camera Program Beginning in October
Body Worn Camera Frequently Asked Questions
Who is equipped with Body Worn Cameras (BWCs)?
All Howard County police officers are equipped with body worn cameras. Compliance with the BWC program policy is mandatory and any violations by officers shall result in disciplinary action.
When must an officer activate their BWC?
BWCs are automatically activated every time an officer turns on emergency equipment in a patrol car, turns on a Taser, or removes a firearm from its holster. Vehicles and holsters are being equipped with sensors to ensure cameras are immediately activated in these situations.
Officers will activate BWCs for legitimate law enforcement purposes only. The cameras record video from the 60 seconds prior to their activation. An officer who activates a BWC for a law enforcement purpose shall not intentionally deactivate it without a clear investigative purpose and shall document the reason in the written report (i.e. victim request).
When responding to K through 12 educational institutions, officers will refrain from activating the camera unless necessary for law enforcement purposes.
When responding to hospitals or other medical facilities, officers should refrain from activating the BWC until necessary for investigation or other law enforcement purposes. To the extent possible, officers will protect medical privacy.
Must an officer tell me I’m being recorded? What if I don’t want to be recorded?
Officers shall inform citizens that they are being recorded at the beginning of their contact or as soon as safely possible. Victims, witnesses, and other persons who wish to make a statement or share information during a voluntary interaction, may request the officer to stop (or not start) the Body Worn Camera (BWC) video and audio recording.
Officers may honor these requests but are not required to stop recording if it is pursuant to investigation, arrest, lawful search, or the circumstances clearly indicate that continued recording is necessary.
Every effort will be made to provide language assistance to citizens who are limited- or non-English proficient to understand that they are being recorded.
How much does this program cost? How is it being funded?
The County Council approved the County Executive’s requests to fund the affected county departments to implement the BWC program. The approved FY23 budget funding (and estimated FY22 costs) includes:
- Police - $2.8M ($1.6M in FY22)
- Sheriff - $411k ($301k in FY22)
- State's Attorney - $1.5M ($824k for FY22)
- Department of Technology and Communication Services - $28k ($56k in FY22)
How long will BWC footage be retained?
Recordings will be kept for at least three (3) years, or the minimum time required under all applicable laws and policies. BWC recordings that are considered evidence related to an investigation or complaint will be retained until the case is adjudicated.
Open homicide and sexual assault evidence is retained for 80 years. All other open felony case evidence is retained for 10 years.
Will HCPD release BWC footage?
HCPD will release BWC footage consistent with the Maryland Public Information Act and other applicable State and Federal statutes and regulations and in consultation with the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office. Each video will be assessed on a case-by-case basis to ensure a timely release without negatively impacting a criminal investigation or prosecution.
Will my private information be redacted prior to the release of BWC footage?
Yes, private information will be redacted prior to a video’s release in compliance with all records release laws. This may include medical information protected under HIPAA.
Can an officer delete recordings?
No, an officer does not have the ability to delete or alter recordings.
Where can I read the HCPD’s BWC policy in full?
The entire HCPD BWC policy is available to the public on our website: ADM 31 - Body Worn Cameras
Where can I see updates on the progress of the BWC program?
Regular updates about the progress of the BWC program are posted on social media and available to the public on our website.