School Resource Officers to Wear Body Cameras

According to the School Safety Advocacy Council:
School Resource Officers at three Montgomery County public high schools have started wearing body cameras while working in the schools. The three Montgomery County police officers assigned to Walt Whitman, Northwest and Seneca Valley high schools began participating in the county police department’s body camera pilot program last week, according to MCPS.

Police who respond to incidents at schools may also be equipped with the cameras. In a note to parents MCPS said school officials worked with the Montgomery County Police Department to resolve issues such as student privacy before the cameras were used in schools.

During a committee meeting earlier this month, County Council members expressed concern to police officials over the possibility that camera footage, including that of students who may not be involved in an incident, would be accessible to the public through a Maryland Public Information Act request.
Council member Craig Rice noted that students in almost every public high school are recorded daily on the school system’s surveillance cameras, which record video, but not audio. However, those videos aren’t accessible to the public under federal guidelines, according to Robert Hellmuth, director of security for Montgomery County Public Schools.

Acken said providing the videos to parents can help resolve cases. He added that the department heavily redacts videos and juvenile records before releasing them so that the juvenile involved cannot be identified.

Acken also said the department would blur the faces of bystanders who are irrelevant to an incident recorded by a body camera in order to protect the privacy of students not involved.

Earlier this month, Chief Tom Manger released a memo describing the department’s policies for using the cameras in schools. Officers are instructed to turn their cameras on only when they are responding to an incident and to turn them off after their involvement in an incident has ended. They’ve also been trained to use discretion when interviewing witnesses, particularly potential sex offense victims, and to not use the cameras in private areas like locker rooms or restrooms.