Fairfax Co. police to start testing body cameras in 2018

WASHINGTON — Many police departments around the D.C. region are testing or using body-worn cameras and Fairfax County police will soon join them.

On Tuesday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a pilot program for the cameras following the recommendations of an ad hoc commission that has suggested numerous reforms for the police department.

The program is expected to launch in March to give the department time to hire additional technology staff plus staff to handled public information requests. Docks for the cameras will be installed and network upgrades made at two police stations.

Officers at the Mount Vernon and Mason district stations will test 230 cameras with varying features and mounts.

“(These are) two areas (in) different parts of the county where we’ll have the opportunity to have some experience in how this program works, and what may be problematic, or what things need to be addressed before we go countywide,” said Board Chair Sharon Bulova.

Officers will be expected to activate the cameras during most interactions with the public, including searches, traffic stops and calls for service.

The pilot program will last at least three months, but could be extended to six months.

Supervisor Jeff McKay said the extension may be needed to get a fair evaluation.

“That was a concern of mine — that it’s a pretty short period of time,” he said.

The camera provider, Axon, is providing the cameras for free during the pilot program. Despite that, the county expects to spend about $685,000 in startup costs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter turned morning anchor at WTOP News.

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