Fairfax Co. supervisors scheduled to vote on body-camera policy

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The Fairfax County police hope to start testing body-worn cameras soon, but first, county supervisors must approve a policy governing their use.

“The body-worn camera program that is proposed right now is a lead example of the coproduction of policing,” Police Chief Ed Roessler said at a Wednesday meeting about police reforms at Whitman Middle School.

“We have a draft policy for the officers of when to turn it on, when to turn it off, that was produced with community stakeholders, especially those from mental health, schools and other agencies,” Roessler added. “Throughout this nation that was not done, and body-worn cameras were deployed and unfortunately lots of failures have happened which have compromised those programs from a cost perspective or a privacy perspective.”

Once the pilot program is underway, Roessler said, it will be closely watched.

“We will have the community stakeholders monitor the test and evaluation period for the program, and have significant input, specifically to the policy. Is it working? Do we need to fix it? And obviously, as the program goes on, we can always tweak that program,” he said.

“Our board is supportive of having-body worn cameras,” County Board Chair Sharon Bulova said at the meeting.

Bulova said the board is scheduled to vote on the camera policy at its Nov. 21 meeting.

“The pilot will start 100 days after approval of the policy, and it will run for approximately 90 days. It will take about 100 days to equip and train the officers (and) hire support staff,” she said.

County police plan to test the cameras with officers at two district stations — Mason and Mount Vernon.

The projected startup cost of $676,152 includes added information technology staff, and staff to handle Freedom of Information Act requests.

It also includes the cost of adding body-camera docks and making network upgrades at police stations.

Equipping police patrol officers with body cameras was one of more than 200 recommendations made in 2015 by the county’s Ad Hoc Police Practices Review Commission.

Michelle Basch

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

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