Arlington Co. introduces funding plan for police body cameras

When police in Virginia’s Arlington County tested body cameras in 2016, they didn’t launch a long-term program. Now, amid nationwide calls for more police accountability, a plan has been introduced to launch a body camera program.

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz told the county board Tuesday night that if it’s approved, the program will start in January.

“All of our patrol officers and members or our special teams, whether canine or emergency response teams, our SROS, everyone that’s out on the street doing work will have cameras as well as our sheriff’s deputies and our fire marshals,” he said.

A proposed capital improvement plan for fiscal year 2021, though reduced by the coronavirus, includes funding to kick-start the program.

“We…are setting aside a little bit over $1 million for investment in hardware, also upgrades to the county courtrooms — four of them — and then an increase in data storage and software,” said Schwartz.

More than 8,000 people have signed a petition, started about a week ago by the Arlington branch of the NAACP, that calls for the cameras to be purchased and used.

“Arlington is the only jurisdiction of size in the entire D.C.-region without a Body-Worn Camera (BWC) program,” the petition reads. “As leaders, we must prioritize programs that encourage public confidence in our government. Arlington Branch NAACP #7047 believes a comprehensive BWC program will do that.”

The county board will hold a public hearing on the capital improvement plan June 30, with adoption of the plan scheduled for July 18.

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