- The Washington Times - Monday, June 22, 2015

The Metropolitan Police Department will evaluate the effectiveness of its body-worn camera program by working with a team of researchers to compare the interactions of officers who have the technology against those who do not.

The conclusions could inform decisions about funding for and the rollout of the program.

Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier disclosed the planned study in an email Friday detailing the rollout of 400 cameras to be worn by patrol officers that are expected to hit city streets by the month’s end.

The use of 160 cameras as part of a pilot program halts this month as the cameras are pulled back and redistributed. The department’s 5th and 7th police districts each will receive 200 body-worn cameras for use beginning Monday.

Lawmakers cut the level of funding appropriated for the camera program after a dispute over the police department’s plans to keep video from the body cameras private, citing a lack of technology to efficiently redact personal and identifying information from videos in response to public records requests.

The department initially sought 2,400 cameras but was granted funding for 1,200 cameras in the upcoming fiscal year, which would bring the grand total of cameras to 1,600.

“Given the number of cameras we will be able to purchase and maintain, the research team has designed a deployment strategy that will support a robust analysis of the effectiveness of the cameras by maintaining a control group of officers with no cameras in each district,” Chief Lanier wrote in an email to community list serves. “If the cameras are effective, we will ask for funding to support additional cameras in future budgets.”

In the chief’s email, the researchers were described as a “team national experts, including leading academics from the University of Arizona.”

The department was unable to provide details Monday about the research team members or specifics on what exactly they planned to study.

Chief Lanier said the camera deployments were going to patrol officers in the 5th and 7th districts “because they each have a very high number of citizen contacts with police.” The police districts are in the Northeast and Southeast quadrants of the city.

Officers in the other five police districts are expected to receive batches of 200 cameras over the coming months, and Chief Lanier said she expects them all to be deployed by September 2016.

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