Alexandria police begins rolling out body cameras

Alexandria’s Police Department in Virginia has become the latest police force to deploy body cameras to its officers. The program comes after the department secured support and the money for the $2.2 million rollout.

“We’re pleased to announce it’s time to begin,” said Lt. Jason North, chief of staff for Alexandria police.

The first 30 officers have been outfitted with their cameras, and each month, an additional 30 officers will be issued their camera. North said the staggered deployment is due to the need to fully train officers on using the cameras.

“We want to make sure our officers fully understand what is required of them when they use these body-worn cameras,” North said.

The system is a top-of-the-line one, which involves several features that automate the start of the cameras, North said. This includes technology on an officer’s holster for their gun and taser. When an officer removes their weapon, their camera automatically turns on.

“As police officers, we’re human, so we can be overwhelmed by the intensity of a situation, the stress of a situation. There’s just a lot of things to deal with in these very critical moments,” North said.

For those and other reasons, North said automating the start of the camera becomes “a huge relief” for not only the department but the officers, as well.

Alexandria Police body worn cameras
Both gun and stun gun holsters are equipped with technology that automatically switches on body cameras when they are removed from the holster. (WTOP/Mike Murillo)

While some departments choose only to equip certain officers with the cameras, Alexandria police made them mandatory for all sworn members of the force.

“From the chief of police, down to the line patrol officer, everyone’s going to be carrying a body-worn camera,” North said.

When it comes to what officers think about the program, North said when beginning the process, the department reached out to officers about the cameras, and the feedback, he said, was overwhelmingly in support of the program.

“They agreed that this would enhance their ability to do their job, gain trust with the community, work in partnership with the community, and also help them improve as police officers just being able to use these videos as a training point,” North said.

The videos the camera takes will be uploaded to a secure cloud source, according to North, which will hold the footage for several years. North said every sworn officer should have cameras on their uniforms by January 2024.

“As a police department, we recognize that having a body-worn camera is best practice. We feel confident that this meets our community expectations, and it will also allow us to better support our officers who perform a very difficult job day in and day out,” North said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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