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Baltimore Police Could Have Body Cameras Early Next Year

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- As promised, Baltimore's mayor vetoed a bill that would have required all city police officers to wear so-called body cameras.

Derek Valcourt explains the mayor says she supports body cameras, but she just wants to make sure they're done the right way.

She says it's not a matter of if, but when city officers will get cameras.

Tuesday morning, a special committee began meeting to figure out the best way to make it happen.

Police in Laurel have been recording their interactions with citizens for nearly two years with cameras mounted to officers' glasses. It's already drastically cut down on the number of citizen complaints and lawsuits against the department.

The hope that body cameras could improve police and community relations now has President Barack Obama proposing $263 million in federal spending, an idea supported by Baltimore's mayor---despite her veto of a city council bill requiring police to wear body cameras.

"I think the legislation was well-meaning but it was not the right direction," she said.

Instead, she wants advice from a committee of lawyers, lawmakers and policing experts---all carefully examining how Baltimore should implement its own body camera policies.

Tuesday morning, they heard from the city's top cop, Anthony Batts, who five years ago helped implement one of the country's first body camera program as chief in Oakland, California.

"I was looking for an instrument not only to hold the police department accountable but also to hold the citizenry accountable," he said.

Batts says doing body cameras the right way could cost the city as much as $12 million.

"I think my concern here is storage capacity," he says.

He says he thinks all police videos should be saved for up to five or even seven years. The city of Laurel keeps its unneeded video only six months.

Batts says the cameras should be tested in a pilot program and already has officers willing to volunteer.

The commissioner also raised many privacy concerns with the cameras, asking the committee to consider how much access the members of the media would have to the video and when police would have the discretion to turn the cameras on or off.

The mayor's committee says they are hoping to have recommendations on body camera policies to her by early next year.

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