Body cameras topic of debate
by Lisa Tome
Last week, one of the county's insurers, LGIT (Local Insurance Government Trust) recommended that Cecil Sheriff's Office deputies begin wearing body cameras.
There are no plans currently in place for that.
"We don't have them. No final decision has been made. There are a lot of factors to consider, cost and storage. No decision has been made regarding them," said Lt. Michael Holmes, spokesman for the Cecil Sheriff's Office.
Officers at some of the municipal police departments - Elkton, Perryville, and Rising Sun currently wear body cameras.
Officer Dan Stickney of the Rising Sun police department has embraced the technology. "We like it. Absolutely. It prevents false accusations of officer misconduct and it provides great evidence," said Stickney. RSPD began using body cameras this summer.
Officer George Vanaskey is the senior officer in Rising Sun with nearly 17 years with the department. "I was skeptical at first. It was more of a big brother is watching us thing. But I don't do anything different. (Wearing a camera) doesn't change my behavior," said Vanaskey.
Chief Chip Peterson said that there are multiple triggers which activate the cameras. He is not revealing what they are. He did say that they are not active when officers are eating or using the bathroom.
"We started wearing them at the beginning of July. It actually has given these guys a sense of security that they won't get falsely accused. It used to be that citizens would come and complain. Now you have a clear picture of what actually occurred. People would make accusations (against officers). Now we have a record of those encounters," said Chief Peterson.
The chief said that he spends about an hour each day reviewing body camera recordings. "The behavior from the public is disturbing. And I'm seeing more of it," said the chief. He also said that he tries not to second guess how officers handled things. "To second guess their behavior is not something I would do. As long as they stay within the parameters (of the law). Would I ever handle things differently than they do? Yes," said Peterson.
He also said he has seen officers use profanity on camera. He said that is warranted in some cases. "One profane word and the respect returns," he said. "You give what you receive. We're not going to mistreat people. We're here to help. More people have complimented the officers recently. Does it have anything to do with the cameras? I do not know."
The officers aren't the only ones wearing body cameras. The chief also wears one, not while in the office, but while he's on patrol.
"You're conscious of it being there But I'm still going to be me. I'm still going to talk to people the same way," he said. "The way I conduct business is the way I conduct business."
Since the technology is fairly new, the chief has discussed it with others.
"I've had conversations with Perryville. It provides comfort for officers. We have a visual record and the cameras collect great evidence. The video is very clear. It mimics the human eye. What you see is what is there. It's a great tool and I'm glad we have them," he said.
LGIT, the insurer which recommended the cameras for the county, is helping to offset the cost. Chief Peterson said the town will receive $5,000 towards the cost of the cameras. That will pay "the majority" of the cost of having them. "I love technology. It makes our job a whole lot easier. It makes a lot of things we do a whole lot easier," he said.
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