Police Body Camera

Buzzuro seeking to fulfill camera requirement before state law’s 2025 deadline

Nearly a month after being scrutinized for its handling of an incident on the Boardwalk, the Ocean City Police Department is considering equipping its officers with body cameras.

The Boardwalk incident took place on June 12, when police approached a group of people who vaping on the Boardwalk – an offense that is not ticketable in Ocean City.

According to the police report, officers told the group that vaping was not allowed on the Boardwalk, and both parties walked their separate ways. But then, someone in the group – later identified as Brian Everett Anderson, 19, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania –  decided to start vaping again. As a result, police asked for Anderson’s identification, which he refused.

After the refusal, police attempted to place Anderson under arrest. He resisted and was charged with disorderly conduct and several other violations.

Videos that emerged from the scene, however, showed an officer ramming his knee into a man’s ribs on the ground. A separate vaping incident and arrest around the same time led to a man getting tased, and a video of that also made the rounds of social media.

Those videos, however, do not show the whole incident, making it difficult for the public and officials to piece things together.

During a Police Commission meeting on Monday morning, the subject of body cameras was brought up, as officials discussed the events in June and an anticipated pop-up car rally in September.

Ashley Miller, the deputy of communications for the police department, said later in the week, “At this time, the Ocean City Police Department does not have body-worn cameras.”

State legislation passed earlier this year requires all law enforcement agencies in Maryland to have body-worn cameras by 2025.

According to Miller, Chief Ross Buzzuro and his department have already begun looking at various vendors who can provide the cameras, while also looking to other law enforcement agencies that have implemented body camera programs.

Because initiative in Ocean City is in its early phases, the department is only beginning to map out the process so it can be executed.

“Chief Buzzuro expresses that he is in full support of this initiative for the safety of our officers and community,” Miller said. “It is an added tool that will be beneficial in the future.”

Mayor Rick Meehan also said the week that he supports the implementation of body cameras for police.

Up to this point, officers have not been equipped with cameras because the city has worked on placing surveillance cameras around Ocean City in places like Baltimore Avenue and the Boardwalk. The city has also focused on the recruitment and retention of police officers, Meehan explained, so getting body cameras has not really taken the forefront – until now.

Like Buzzuro, Meehan said the body cams will be an important safety measure not only for the officers, but for visitors as well.

So, when the chief suggested the city move forward with the process and evaluate what needs to be done, how the camera program will be funded, and how to move forward, Meehan agreed.

“I support that,” Meehan said. “I agree the body cameras are important.”

But the department cannot just go and purchase a shipment of cameras and expect that to be the answer.

Instead, the department must investigate how the video taken from the cameras will be stored, how the footage will be catalogued, and what additional materials will be needed.

In addition to the equipment, the city may need to hire a people to maintain the camera footage, according to the mayor.

Once the nuts and bolts are figured out, Meehan said the public will see the department move forward with the camera operation relatively quickly.

Likewise, Buzzuro said he wants to move forward with the program before the 2025 deadline imposed by the state.

“Hopefully, it will be in place as soon as possible,” Meehan said. “We want to do it, but we want to do it right.”

Miller said the topic is expected to remain on the Police Commission agenda as a standing item.

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on July 16, 2021.

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