This year’s University of Baltimore Law Review spring symposium, “A Look from All Angles,” will feature a discussion on law enforcement body-worn cameras. After a half-year of use by the Baltimore Police Department, and the national attention that has garnered, a panel of experts will discuss the ways that implementation of the devices has affected the police, attorneys, and our communities.
“A Look from All Angles: Discussing the Use of Police Body-Worn Cameras” will take place on Tuesday, April 10, beginning at 4 p.m., in the UB School of Law’s Moot Court Room. It is free and open to the public. To attend, fill out the online RSVP.
Among the panelists is the Hon. Frederic Smalkin, retired Chief Judge of the District Court of the District of Maryland, a professor in the UB School of Law, and Judge in Residence at the University of Baltimore. Smalkin served as chair of the Commission on Law Enforcement Body-Worn Cameras that was established in 2015 to make recommendations regarding the implementation of body cameras to the Maryland General Assembly and the Police Training Commission. Now, nearly three years later, Smalkin has had a chance to reflect on the findings of the commission and observe their recommendations in action.
Smalkin said he remembers the experience of working on the commission, which he describes as a “Noah’s Ark of sorts,” ranging in representation from the NAACP to the Fraternal Order of Police, as being mostly a smooth experience.
“It worked out very well,” he said. “There was no animosity to my memory; there was agreement on various topics. The concept was not a problem, the implementation of the concept was where there were different opinions.”
According to him, the process encompassed decisions on how much footage should be retained, what protections would be afforded victims who might be recorded, what rights the media would have when it comes to obtaining the footage, and the biggest problem: how was it going to be paid for?
“It costs a lot of money to store what will end up being terabytes of data,” Smallkin said. “You also have to pay someone to look at the footage. You also have to consider how it’s going to work going into the future, any upgrades to the system. We decided it was best left up to the City Council, and that’s how it ended up working out.”
Smalkin explains that they took a lot of pointers from the implementation of body-worn cameras by police in the UK, which is known for its heavy use of surveillance. He points out that, “at first [in the UK] there was some resistance to the idea; it was just another thing for the police to worry about. But they soon found out that they were so useful in court.”
The benefit of body-worn cameras to the police, a side of the discussion not often discussed, is something Smalkin is quick to point out. He argues that the rules of evidence were made for the 18th century, but things have changed in the way we perceive the importance of various channels of information.
“The ears are not the major receptor of information anymore – it’s the eyes,” he said.
In addition to Smalkin, the symposium panelists will include:
- TJ Smith, chief of media relations, Baltimore City Police Department
- Scott D. Shellenberger, state’s attorney for Baltimore County
- Donald Zaremba, district public defender for Baltimore County
- Sean Goodison, deputy director and senior research criminologist,
Police Executive Research Forum
- Clark Neily, vice president for criminal justice at the Cato Institute
- Matthew Feeney, policy analyst at the Cato Institute
This event is sponsored by the MSBA Young Lawyers Section Council.