Baltimore County Police Department is increasing the number of body cameras assigned to its officers in addition to reviewing several policies related to mental health and sexual assault investigations. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz made the announcement at a news conference at the Historic Courthouse in Towson, Md. on Oct. 19, while insisting that the changes have no direct relation to the death of Korryn Gaines. Gaines was killed by Baltimore County police officers earlier this year while holding her toddler son. The police had been attempting to serve her with warrant for outstanding traffic fines. Her estate is currently suing the police department.
“While we are unable to publicly discuss the specific details surrounding the Korryn Gaines case due to pending litigation, it is my expectation that this comprehensive review by the Justice Center will lead to recommendations that may help us avoid these kind of tragic incidents in the future,” Kamenetz said.
Baltimore County is increasing overtime in an effort to have 1,435 officers trained and equipped with body cameras by fall 2017. Currently, 128 officers have body cameras.
“I remain confident that body cameras will make our communities and our officers safer, and the faster implementation achieves that goal that much sooner,” said Kamenetz.
In addition, Baltimore County will start an independent review of police responses to sexual assault crimes, as well as immediately change the investigatory policy. Kamenetz requested that the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA) and retired Judge Barbara Howe independently review policies and procedures in the area of sexual assault response, and make recommendations for further changes in their procedures.
“I am confident that MCASA and Judge Howe can successfully review past police practices and procedures to identify recommendations for significant improvements to police responses to sexual violence,” Kamenetz said. “In addition to this outside review, I have asked Chief Johnson to review the past three years of reported sexual assault cases that were not referred for prosecution. In addition, I asked the county attorney and the state’s attorney to also conduct a review of those same files.”
As a result of those reviews, authorities have already identified one policy change that will be effective immediately: Every individual reporting a second-degree sex assault crime, as well as the suspect, will be personally interviewed by a detective in the sex crime unit, as ordered by Chief Johnson.
The county will also undertake an independent review of police training procedures in areas of behavioral health response, cultural competency training and de-escalation strategies.
“In order to improve the way our police respond to these situations, I have asked the non-profit Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to work with the Baltimore County Police Department and our County Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate policies and procedures,” Kamenetz said.