Body cameras may come to Virginia Beach uniform patrol officers in 2017

Virginia Beach Police Capt. Todd Jones on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]
Virginia Beach Police Capt. Todd Jones on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015.

COURTHOUSE — As the number of body cameras worn by police officers grows around the U.S., Virginia Beach police are researching options on the high-tech devices. 

Around 400 of the city’s 806 police officers would be outfitted with body cameras if a program is put in place, possibly in January 2017. 

“Our uniform patrol officers, the ones that have the most interaction with citizens, will be wearing the cameras,” police Capt. Todd Jones said during an interview.

Police Chief Jim Cervera presented the department’s progress on the issue during a city council workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

The police department estimates that it will cost roughly $1.2 million during the first year of using body-worn cameras. In June, the department’s research council, led by Jones, applied for a federal grant of $600,000 to help cover expected costs and support staffing costs.

Only 12 cities will be chosen for the grant nationwide, but Cervera is hopeful they will be one of those selected in October. 

However, equipment prices aren’t the only complications involved in the technology. 

“That estimate doesn’t count the additional folks that would be needed to review all of this data,” Cervera said.

Reviewing the footage will be especially time consuming, he said. Staff will be needed to redact footage to ensure privacy of the citizens before it can be released. The department also expects an increase in requests for footage under public records laws, and police will charge accordingly for those requests. 

Cervera noted that there are many positive aspects of using the cameras, and there is a growing community expectation to do so. By implementing body cameras, the police chief hopes to cut down on citizen complaints, litigation costs and to identify potential issues with how officers interact in situations.

“We like the idea because it will make us totally transparent and accountable,” Cervera said. 

Footage from the cameras may also serve as an unbiased review of any interactions between officers and citizens and allow for more detailed investigations in court proceedings.

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