University Park Police Department is pleased to announce that we recently launched a Body-Worn Camera Program for all sworn officers. The goal of the University Park Police Body-Worn Camera program is to increase transparency and accountability of officers, and to assist in preventing and de-escalating confrontations between officers and civilians. According to the Police – The Law Enforcement Magazine body-worn cameras is one of the top 5 emerging technologies police agencies can’t do without. The other 4 emerging technologies are drones, case management software, artificial intelligence and virtual reality training. While the remaining four are essential tools for today’s law enforcement agency. Last fall the University Park Police sought out and completed implicit bias virtual reality training at the University of Maryland. And after conducting considerable research and evaluating different vendors it was determined that TASER Axon Body 2 Camera would offer the department features that exceeded industry standards while providing ample storage for video footage at an affordable cost. Last fall the Town Council approved the University Park Police General Order 436.0. Body-Worn Camera which governs the use of the camera. After completion of the TASER Axon Body 2 Camera training, all University Park Police Officers were issued a camera and login credentials to access TASER’s body-worn camera dashboard. An excerpt of the body-worn camera general order provides guidelines for the use of the body-worn camera by University Park Police Officers:
University Park Police General Order 436.0. Body Worn Camera (use guidelines excerpted)
1. Mandatory use.
a. With the exception of minor ‘occurred earlier’ property crimes (theft, vandalism, littering) and house checks, officers are required to record during all calls for service and during all law enforcement-related encounters and activities while on duty unless doing so would be unsafe, impractical, or impossible.
b. Officers shall document in an incident report any reasons for failing to record an activity that is required by department policy to be recorded.
c. Law enforcement activities that must be recorded by BWCs include, but are not limited to:
• Suspicious persons/situations
• Solicitor calls
• Traffic or investigative stops
• Searches of persons or places
• Interrogations or interviews with suspicious persons or suspects—even when the interaction is consensual (not involving a ‘stop’ or detention)
• Encounters with persons with mental illness, mental disorders or in a mental health or emotional crisis
• Foot pursuits
• Any encounter with the public that becomes adversarial after the initial contact.
• Open doors or any unusual or suspicious circumstances discovered during house checks
• Serving as a back-up officer to any of the above
d. While working approved security related part-time employment and taking police related action in the course of that employment.
2. Use requiring consent.
a. Officers are encouraged to record statements made by crime victims and witnesses, however, officers must obtain the individual’s consent prior to recording. The consent should be recorded whenever practical.
b. If the victim or witness does not consent to be video recorded, officers should request permission to audio record the interview and statement.
c. If a victim or witness will not talk unless the recorder is turned off entirely, officers will conduct the interview without recording, and they will document the reasons in the event report.
3. Discretionary use. Officers are NOT required to use the BWC to record:
a. Responses to minor property crimes that occurred earlier (theft, vandalism, littering, etc.) however, they are encouraged to use the BWC (video or still images) to record any evidence on the scene;
b. House checks, unless an officer discovers an open door or other unusual or suspicious circumstance;
c. When an individual approaches an officer to report a crime or share information
d. Informal, non-law enforcement-related interactions with the public.
4. Prohibited use.
a. BWCs shall be used only in conjunction with official law enforcement duties.
b. BWCs shall not be used to record in any situation when individuals have a reasonable expectation of privacy absent exigent or other circumstances that would justify such recordings. Such situations include, but are not limited to:
a. University Park Police Department personnel during routine, non-enforcement activities;
b. Persons while in bathrooms or locker rooms;
c. Strip searches pursuant to agency policy; and
d. Conversations with other agency personnel that involve case tactics or strategy