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BODY-WORN CAMERAS UNIT

Program Overview

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In mid-January 2022 the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office will begin a year-long trial period with two well-known body-worn camera vendors.

 

Currently there are six patrol teams assigned to the Sheriff's Office. From January through June 2022 the trial will take place one patrol team at a time using Axon’s Body 3 cameras.

 

In late June through December 2022, the patrol teams will then transition into trying the Motorola V300.

 

During the trial periods, there will be 15 body-worn cameras deployed in the field. The purpose of the trial is to determine which camera system works best for the agency in regards to the physical device, software, and related cost analysis. Once the trial period concludes, research gathered throughout the timeframe will be evaluated and a vendor will be selected.

With the creation of the body-worn camera program, the public may find themselves with questions that surround body-worn cameras. In an attempt to help answer some of those questions, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions section of this page.

 

Should you have additional questions or suggestions related to the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office Body-Worn Camera Program you may direct them to FCSOBWC@frederickcountymd.gov.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a body-worn camera?


A body-worn camera is a camera system affixed on the person of a uniformed law enforcement officer, or an officer prominently displaying a badge or other insignia, that is capable of recording video and intercepting oral communications.




Are there limitations of body-worn camera systems?


Yes, body-worn camera (BWC) systems have limitations. Examples include:

  • BWC’s do not necessarily capture everything that is occurring during an incident, such as slight movements or indicators of resistance by a subject; things that cannot be seen or heard by the deputy or the BWC; statements that were not recorded due to policy; etc.)
  • Conversely, in some cases, a BWC may record images or audio that were not or could not be seen, heard, or perceived by the deputy.
  • BWC’s do not record or analyze physiological or biometric data of the deputy wearing the camera and cannot determine a deputy’s or any other individual’s state of mind.
  • BWC video and audio alone can not determine situation awareness and perception of what is taking place during an incident or encounter.




Why are deputies wearing body-worn cameras?


The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has developed and adopted policy and practice to utilize the BWC for the purpose of:

  • Strengthening police accountability
  • Promoting de-escalation by both law-enforcement and those being encountered
  • Enhancing the ability to resolve officer-involved incidents and complaints
  • Improving transparency and safety amongst the community
  • Identifying and correcting internal agency training, policy, and other issues
  • Strengthening the performance and safety of deputies




Who will wear body-worn cameras?


BWC's will be worn by Frederick County Sheriff’s Office sworn law enforcement deputy’s when they are:

  • In uniform and on-duty;
  • In uniform while working extra-duty or secondary employment; and
  • In uniform while operating an emergency vehicle.

Deputies and detectives on duty in plain clothes or business attire will wear a BWC within the guidelines established in policy and within the limitations outlined in the Annotated Code of Maryland. Deputies and detectives in plain clothes will not be required to wear a BWC during the normal course of their duties, unless they are wearing a tactical vest carrier or participating in law enforcement activity, and they are prominently displaying a badge or other insignia identifying them as a law-enforcement officer.




How will body cameras be worn?


BWC's will be worn on the outermost garment of the deputy at chest level to maximize the camera’s field of view and to facilitate the operation of the BWC by the deputy.




What brand of body-worn camera will be used?


The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office is currently in the trial phase of body-worn cameras and two major BWC brands will be utilized for testing purposes. Those brands are Axon and Motorola. The Axon trial will commence from January 2022-June 2022 followed by Motorola from June 2022-December 2022.




How many body-worn cameras will the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office have?


During the trial phase of 2022, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office will have 15 cameras issued to mostly deputies assigned to the patrol division. The cameras will be rotated amongst different deputies to obtain collective data during the trial period.

Once a vendor is chosen, there will be approximately 250 BWC's in inventory for deployment and replacement as needed.




When will deputies begin wearing body-worn cameras?


Training and deployment of the BWC's will begin in mid-January 2022 as the trial period begins. Throughout the trial period of the year 2022, only 15 cameras will be deployed on various patrol deputies throughout the agency.




Are the body-worn cameras recording all the time?


No, BWC's are not recording all the time.

When deputies are required to wear the BWC according to policy, the BWC will be turned on and will be in “Pre-Event Buffer Mode.” While the BWC is in Pre-Event Buffer Mode, the BWC is continuously but temporarily storing the most recent sixty seconds of video without audio. Once the BWC is activated, the previous sixty seconds of Pre-Event footage is added to the recording and permanently stored to the video file.

BWC's are activated manually by the deputy to record video and audio when required or authorized by policy.




When are deputies required to activate their body-worn cameras to record video and audio?


Deputies are required to activate their BWC in the following circumstances:

  • Upon the arrival at the scene of calls for service, or other encounters that are investigative or enforcement related. This includes but is not limited to dispatched calls, traffic stops, arrests and transports, searches, pursuits, interviews and interrogations, mental health interventions, use of force incidents, documentation and seizure of evidence, etc.
  • All contact with a community member that becomes confrontational.
  • When not otherwise prohibited by law or policy and the recording would be beneficial in the interest of the public.

If a deputy is unable to immediately activate their BWC to record at the initiation of the incident or encounter when they are required by policy to activate their BWC, the deputy is expected to activate the BWC as soon as practical to do so.




When do deputies stop the body-worn camera recording?


Deputies will stop and end the recording when one of the following conditions are met:

  • The deputy has left the scene of the incident and anticipates no further involvement in the event.
  • A supervisor has authorized that the recording may cease.
  • The event has fully concluded and no further law enforcement action is likely to occur.
  • When authorized by policy.




When are deputies prohibited from activating their body-worn cameras to record video and audio?


Deputies shall not activate their BWC or record in the following circumstances:

  • When performing strip searches
  • Private conversations or conversations that are not part of official business
  • When performing or interacting with other agency personnel during routine administrative activities.
  • During court proceedings, unless the deputy is dealing with a disorderly, violent, or combative subject where law enforcement action is necessary.
  • In any circumstance that is not related to a legitimate law enforcement purpose or as otherwise prohibited by law.




When can deputies use discretion to activate or not activate their body-worn camera?


Deputies may use discretion to activate or not activate or to stop their BWC from video and audio recording in the following circumstances:

  • When community members, witnesses, crime victims, or other parties wish to make a statement or share information but refuse to do so while being recorded, or they request the recording be stopped.
  • When sensitive circumstances are present, such as interviewing a victim of a sexually related offense.
  • When inside a medical facility or ambulance to protect patient’s rights to privacy.
  • When not otherwise prohibited by law or policy, deputies may activate their BWC when they feel the recording may be beneficial to the interest of the public.




How long are body-worn camera video recordings retained?


The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office will retain all BWC recordings for at least 90 days unless they are categorized as evidence or another specific value. Videos categorized as evidence will be kept in accordance with the agency’s established retention schedule.




How are body-worn camera recordings stored?


BWC recordings are initially temporarily stored on the BWC itself. Deputies will regularly dock or connect their BWC which will upload the recordings to a cloud-based secure digital evidence management system. The digital evidence management system is FBI Criminal Justice Information Systems compliant and the recordings are sent in an encrypted format.

Each recording is categorized based on the interaction or call for service and linked to the incident that it was related to.

Deputies do not have the ability to edit, delete, or otherwise alter the BWC recordings. All BWC related activity is recorded as metadata and becomes part of an audit log within the system. Only agency personnel and limited shared access personnel have access to the video recordings.




Does a deputy have to tell me their body-worn camera has been activated to record video and audio?


The Annotated Code of Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceeding Article requires law enforcement officers to notify an individual they are being recorded, as soon as practical and safe.

Deputies are not required to give subsequent notifications to other parties who may come into view of the video and audio recording after the first notification has been given.




Can I ask the deputy to turn off their body-worn camera?


Community members, witnesses, crime victims, or other parties wishing to make a statement or share information during a voluntary interaction, may request the deputy to stop or not start recording with the BWC.

If you are the subject of an investigation, traffic stop, arrest, or other potential law enforcement-related encounter, the deputy is required by policy to record the interaction and will not stop the recording at your request.




What about my privacy?


The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office is sensitive to privacy concerns. The public release of BWC video and audio recordings is governed by the Maryland Public Information Action. The recordings may also be governed by Maryland Court rules if the video is related to a criminal or civil complaint. The Sheriff’s Office has implemented a process to redact images, audio, and sensitive material from BWC recordings in compliance with those applicable laws. In cases where a BWC recording is to be publicly released, any known victims, witnesses, and involved personnel will be notified prior to the release.




Can a deputy edit or delete a body-worn camera recording?


No one, including system administrators, can edit or manipulate the original recording made on the body-worn camera. No functionality within the camera itself allows for deletion or manipulation of the recording. Even after the recording is uploaded to the digital evidence management system, the original native recording cannot be edited.

Only a few system administrators have the ability and authority to delete a BWC recording from the digital evidence management system under very specific circumstances. As with all activity in the evidence system, an electric audit log that cannot be tampered with is kept to document the deletion.

Deletion of BWC recordings follows a defined retention schedule. The BWC Coordinator or designee will verify the status of the incident related to the BWC recording before the deletion of the footage.




What is the process for obtaining a copy of body-worn video recordings?


BWC video and audio recordings are property of the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and may also be evidence if they are related to an investigation or complaint.

The release of BWC recordings is governed by the Maryland Public Information Act and Maryland Courts related to the rules of discovery. Requests to obtain copies of BWC recordings may be made by completing the PIA Request Form. If the request can be fulfilled, the BWC Coordinator will review the request and provide an estimate related to the cost associated with the reproduction of the footage.

Not all BWC video recordings are available for public release. Prematurely releasing BWC recordings to the public could negatively impact fact-finding during criminal investigations, prosecutions, and internal investigations. Early public release of recordings can lead to evidence being suppressed and not allowed to be presented in court or during a hearing. Additionally, BWC recordings may contain law enforcement interactions with members of the community who have an expectation of privacy.