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Body cams in public schools being discussed by Portland Board of Education

The Portland Police Department outfitted all officers, including school resource officers with body cameras

PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Board of Education was divided Tuesday night, October 30, as it discussed the rules school resource officers wearing body cameras. 

According to the Portland Press Herald, the discussion sparked differing opinions between board members and those in attendance.

The board held a workshop following the regularly scheduled meeting to discuss questions about the use of body cameras as part of a memorandum of understanding.

The memorandum of understanding is an agreement between the Portland Police Department and Portland Public Schools that outlines the role of school resource officers, as well as how body cameras would be used.

The Board of Education will vote on a revised memorandum at its meeting on Nov. 12. 

A city ordinance was passed in April 2018 to require Portland Police Officers to wear body cameras. The Portland School District has two school resource officers (SROs), both of which are supervised by PPD.

Let us know if you think Maine Student Resource Officers should wear body cams here.  

According to the memorandum, body cameras would only be used by SROs when responding to cases of suspected criminal activity, or when assisting school personnel with matters that may result in disorderly or otherwise disruptive behavior.

The memorandum also adds that the body camera recordings would not be randomly viewed by school officials, however, recordings may be made available to school officials for use in an investigation of student, employee or other matters in which the recordings may provide relevant evidence.

Recordings of body camera footage may also be available to school officials when they may be useful in promoting the safety of students, staff or others in the school. 

"I think the Portland police department is very well-meaning, as is our school district, but we have work to do on addressing implicit bias and tackling the systemic and institutional racism that exists in our society and our institutions,” said board member Tim Atkinson, according to the Portland Press Herald. “These are two of our institutions that sadly help contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline."

Michael Kebede of the ACLU of Maine said body cameras can make sense on police but they don't make sense in Maine schools, according to the Portland Press Herald. 

School principles also weighed in Tuesday. 

“I hear both sides and I would have to go to trusting my school resource officer on when and if it’s going to be used, and I do,” said Portland High School Principal Sheila Jepson, according to the Portland Press Herald. “I will leave that debate to you, but I do think there is value to using it in the school system. I don’t think we would use it often but do think there is value.” 

The board will vote on the rules in the memorandum at it's November 12 meeting.

RELATED: Ex-police commissioner turned lawmaker wants all Maine police to wear body cams by 2021

RELATED: What's it like to be an officer wearing a body camera?

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