Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said Tuesday the police force has started its body camera pilot program.
Manger told the County Council that 20 police department leaders have already agreed to wear the cameras, including Manger himself. Now the department is looking for 80 volunteer officers to also wear the cameras.
“We’ll hopefully have the volunteers by the end of this month,” Manger said. He added that in two days he and other officers are scheduled to be trained on how to use the cameras. “Maybe next time I see you, I’ll have a little camera here,” Manger said as he pointed to his chest.
Police described the pilot program during a meeting with council members in March. A total of 100 officers will be equipped with Tason Axon Body & Flex cameras for 90 days to test the cameras’ reliability and usefulness to officers in the field. The pilot is estimated to cost $95,000 for the cameras and data storage to archive the video footage.
Manger announced the start of the body camera program during a broader discussion about community policing with council members. The council and police leaders talked at length about ways to bring more diversity to the county police force and how to ensure officers are held accountable if they do something wrong. The discussion also reflected on ways to prevent perception problems with local police amidst a national conversation on police brutality sparked by incidents in Ferguson, Missouri and, most recently, Baltimore.
Manger said officers will make mistakes, but when they do, the department will ensure the handling of a mistake is transparent and officers will be held accountable if they’ve done something wrong.
“We understand the conversations going on here, the conversations going on nationally and we understand we’re only as good as our last contact with the public,” Manger said. “Even when tragic mistakes do happen, you can count on us to do the right thing.”
Manger said the department is also taking more steps to educate officers about the law in order to prevent disparate treatment of minority groups and racial profiling.