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Maryland County Creates Unit to Process Police Body Cam Footage

The new team is the Anne Arundel County, Md., state attorney's office's new "Body Worn Camera Unit" tasked with processing video recorded by the police that will later be presented in court.

Up close body camera
(TNS) — Tucked in a windowless room in a county building, 20 pairs of eyes belonging to a team of 10 paralegals are glued to computer monitors.

Hundreds of hours worth of police body camera footage played on the screens, video that's captured by Anne Arundel County's 770-person police force, 110 Annapolis police officers, and the occasional dashcam video from Maryland Transportation Authority police and Maryland State Police. The team is the county state's attorney's office new "Body Worn Camera Unit" tasked with processing video recorded by the police that's later presented in court.

State legislators passed a law earlier this year requiring every police department in Maryland equip its officers with body cameras by 2025. Annapolis police have been wearing body cameras since 2017 and generated a workload handled by two paralegals in the state's attorney's office. As of Sept. 16, Anne Arundel County police trained every active-duty officer to wear a camera. In five months, the department generated 28,197 hours of video and used a staggering 49 terabytes of data storage.

To process that much video, and purchase enough storage, the state's attorney office requested $756,000 between fiscal years 2021 and 2022 in the county budget to staff a unit with eight paralegals and two assistant state's attorneys. The office requested $4,700 in fiscal year 2022 for office supplies, headsets and a copier and plans to hire another person when MDTA police and state troopers begin wearing body cameras.

Deputy State's Attorney Jessica Daigle estimates for every hundred officers that receive a body camera, one paralegal or assistant state's attorney is needed to process the footage. One hour of video usually takes 90 to 120 minutes to analyze, Daigle said.

In the past five weeks, the unit has processed 81,057 minutes of video, about 136 hours of footage a week.

Led by Assistant State's Attorney Kris Vicencio, the unit watches every minute of footage related to misdemeanor and felony crimes. Staff take notes on witness statements to police, flag important events filmed on video, check for inconsistencies between a video and an officer's written report, and shield confidential information, such as a victim's address or a child or police informant's face.

The ability to show police body camera footage to a jury at trial is a "game-changer," said State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.

"Juries are fascinated by videos," Leitess told the newly hired staff. During the insanity trial for the Capital Gazette mass shooter, Leitess showed the jury body camera video in which the shooter calmly reacted to and followed police officers' orders. At trial, she pointed to his documented behavior as evidence he could understand his actions and change his behavior to follow the law.

Leitess added that even the most mundane videos are compelling if it depicts a crime scene in real-time.

"They are very powerful evidence," she said.

Body camera video is particularly helpful in domestic violence cases and during traffic stops, explained paralegal Hans Mbong as he analyzed film on one of two screens. An officer can record a driver's behavior before a traffic stop and throughout the encounter, providing evidence such as a car weaving in road lanes, he said. And statements a domestic violence victim might give a responding police officer are documented on tape if the victim later denies their initial complaint. Videos also capture the scene and appearance of victims at that moment, such as visible bruising.

Vicencio, the unit leader, said videos can help clear out often crowded district court dockets. If a defendant is disputing the facts of a case that a video can prove, those cases can be quickly resolved, he said. Prosecutors in district court are also buoyed by the unit's multiple layers of review, so they don't become bogged down by reviewing every video in a case on their own.

The county police department purchased the body cameras from Axon, a company that makes technology and weapons for law enforcement agencies. Cameras sync to other cameras in the area, allowing police to find and easily gather all relevant video and quickly send it as potential evidence to paralegals in the body-worn camera unit. Paralegals can then play multiple videos from different officers at the same time to watch from a variety of vantage points. The body cameras also include a GPS to traffic an officer's movement at the scene.

Before the legislative push for police to wear body cameras at all times, prosecutors would request dashcam or body camera videos from a police department that would send a CD or flash drive in return. Now, all files from county police are digital and videos are uploaded and stored for an unlimited period of time on a cloud-based management system called

© 2021 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.