Policing body cameras

Montgomery County Police should release more footage

Lilli Libowitz, Assistant Opinion Editor

Montgomery County residents were shocked last March when they saw a video of two officers berating and handcuffing a 5-year-old African American boy at East Silver Spring Elementary School. New legislation has just been passed to randomly review police body camera footage — but this legislation doesn’t go far enough.

According to the body camera footage of this incident, the young boy left school and refused to return to campus. The officers walked the boy back to the school while also verbally harassing him. One of the officers even went to the extent of handcuffing the child in an attempt to frighten him.

This is unacceptable. We cannot allow police officers to continue racial profiling and putting youth,in danger. We have a societal duty to hold these officers accountable and prevent incidents like these from happening in the future.

The incident at the Silver Spring Elementary School prompted County Council President Tom Hucker to introduce Bill 18-21 Police – Internal Affairs Procedures and Reporting Requirements for the random review of police body camera videos in Montgomery County.

A study of the bill’s impact conducted by the county found that this reform will likely “reduce racial inequities in policing and policing outcomes by holding more police officers accountable for misconduct and racially biased policing.”

Police body cameras supply auditory and visual evidence of events that have occurred. According to NPR, a Texas police officer was charged with murder and sentenced to 15 years and given a $10,000 fine after shooting an unarmed black teenager. The footage from the officer’s body camera contradicted his original statement about this event and led to his arrest. 

While this bill can be used as a preventative tool, it is also flawed as officers are only required to wear cameras when they are in uniform. This exempts plainclothes and undercover officers from this rule.

There is yet another issue as the bill states there will be “random reviews of the body camera footage.” We, as the public, deserve a clearer definition of what is meant by “random” reviews of body-worn camera footage. To an even greater extent, we need a public volunteer panel to review said footage. 

This bill is intended to hold the police accountable and attempt to ensure they are behaving ethically and legally. While I support this bill, I do not think it currently goes far enough.

These cameras are a step in the right direction, however, we still need more reform. This system is extremely flawed and there needs to be more bills and laws passed to ensure the police are fairly doing their jobs.