Arlington Co. police to start wearing body cameras

Starting Wednesday, police officers in Arlington County, Virginia, will begin wearing body cameras as part of their uniforms.

The cameras will record all dispatch calls, as well as enforcement and investigative contacts. Arlington police said in a statement that officers assigned to patrol, special operations, community outreach, K-9 and the Emergency Response Team would get a camera.

Previously, officers only had an in-car camera system on their patrol vehicles and video cameras in the interview room.

Acting Chief Andy Penn said the department welcomes the use of body cameras as an additional component to provide “professional law enforcement to the Arlington community.”

“We recognize our community’s trust is earned each day with every interaction,” Penn said. “I am confident these cameras will build upon our longstanding history of community policing by highlighting the professionalism of the agency while instilling greater public confidence as we continue to hold ourselves accountable to the highest professional standards.”

The implementation of officer body cameras comes six months after funding for a program for the county’s Police Department, the Sheriff’s Office and the Fire Marshal’s Office was a part of County Manager Mark Schwartz’s 2021 Capital Improvement Plan proposal.

In July, the County Board approved the plan and funding for the project, including $268,000 for body camera hardware; $536,000 for data storage, software and maintenance; and $755,000 to replace the existing in-car camera systems with new equipment compatible with body cameras. Also approved was $244,000 for upgrades to the county’s four courtrooms to support the technology.

All three law enforcement agencies opened up an online public form last month for residents to give input on a draft of the policies for the new equipment. The rules explain how police should use audio and video recordings captured by body cameras, in-car cameras and interview room footage.

The guidelines were developed after analyzing similar policies nationwide, and they were reviewed by such organizations as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, the Police Executive Research Forum and the American Civil Liberties Union.

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