The Prince William County Police Department in Virginia is planning on outfitting its officers with body cameras by next summer.
The Washington Post reports that Prince William is just one of several local police departments in Virginia that is considering the adoption of body cameras. In order to evaluate if body cameras are truly worth it, Prince William teamed up with nearby Fairfax County last week to host an exposition on body camera technology. More than 35 vendors came to the expo in Chantilly, along with representatives from hundreds of police departments around the state and country, including those from Washington D.C. and Montgomery County.
“This is new technology. It’s evolving,” said Lt. Javid Elahi, the Prince William County Police Department’s information technology manager. “There’s a lot of pieces that go to this — it’s not just as simple as buying a camera and turning it on. You need to have policy, you need to have infrastructure, you need to have people to manage it.”
Sgt. Kim Chinn, a spokeswoman for the Prince William County Police Department, said the expo was meant to educate police departments about all the ramifications that come with acquiring body cameras.
“It’s new technology that we’re all going to have to get comfortable with, and I think there’s anxiety as well as the feeling that we may need this to protect ourselves, so there will be quite a learning curve,” Chinn said. “It’s not like you go out and just buy a new car. There’s so much that goes with it — all the backup, the storage, the retrieval, the managing, the randomly pulling tapes, pulling them for court, things like that. It’s a huge project.”
Last April, Prince William County allotted $3 million to the police department to buy 500 body cameras. Police Chief Stephan Hudson was supportive of the measure.
“My preference for body cameras is they go more places and see more interactions,” Hudson said.
Body cameras have been proposed as a solution in recent times after high-profile cases of police brutality — including those in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland — have lead many in the public as well as in law enforcement to call for better police tactics and equipment like body cameras to ensure safety for both the police and the citizens they serve.
“As a law enforcement officer myself, I believe that wearing body cameras in general is a win/win for departments and the public,” says Jubal Ragsdale, President, 10-8 Video LLC. “Similar to the in car cameras widely used today, they act as an observer of the citizen contact. A study by the San Diego Police Department just released in March of this year revealed that for officers wearing body cameras, complaints against officers fell over 40%, and use of force by officers fell over 46%. That is a very big difference that can only viewed as a tremendous positive for all involved. As more and more departments see the benefit of body cameras, demand has continued to increase.”