Police body-worn camera program to begin in Fairfax Co. next year

Leaders in Fairfax County, Virginia, have approved a body-worn camera program for the Police Department.

“Not only does our community support this, but so does our Police Department,” Fairfax County Supervisor Jeff McKay, of the Lee District, said before the vote.

Officers welcome the transparency, he said: “They know that their training instinctively gets them to do the right thing, and they’re happy to display that when circumstances come about that are less than ideal.”

Deputy County Executive for Public Safety in Fairfax County David Rohrer said that body-worn cameras help in collecting and preserving evidence that can be helpful for prosecutors, public defenders and courts.

The cameras also have benefits for officer safety, he said.

“[Body-worn cameras] hopefully reduce use of force cases, hopefully reduce complaints on officers [may]provide information for training,” Rohrer said.

Fairfax County police announced a test run for a body camera program last year. Seen here is an example of what the cameras would look like on police vests. (WTOP Mike Murillo)

The program will be launched on or about May 1 in the three district stations that hosted last year’s six-month test run: Mason, Mount Vernon and Reston. The plan is to then expand the program countywide, with 1,210 cameras issued to all district stations within three years.

About $4.3 million in funding this fiscal year will come from money already in the Reserve for Ad-Hoc Police Practices Review Commission Recommendations. An estimated $5.5 million needed to support the program next fiscal year will be included in that year’s advertised budget plan, as would an expected $1.1 million required for fiscal 2022.

“The potential benefits fully justify the investment on body-worn cameras,” Rohrer said.

Although the vote approving body-worn camera use was unanimous, Supervisor Pat Herrity, of Springfield, expressed reservations about funding priorities.

“Those priorities include finally addressing police pay so it’s competitive with other jurisdictions,” Herrity said.

He also suggested that body-worn cameras address issues the county doesn’t have, but ultimately voted “yes,” he said, in favor of transparency.

“We can always do better, and any tool increases transparency, including body cameras,” Herrity said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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