Fairfax County readies launch of body-worn cameras but foresees a stall

Fairfax County, Virginia, is ready to begin its body-worn camera program, in the works for years. But there’s the potential that funding could suffer after its first phase.

Phase One of Fairfax County’s roll out of its body-worn camera program, beginning May 1, will outfit police staff, Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Fairfax Public Defender Office and court personnel.

Fairfax County police Chief Ed Roessler has been touting the importance of transparency and his desire to get the body-worn camera program up and running in the county for more than a year.

The pilot program last year focused on training 230 patrol officers and was funded in the fiscal year 2020 Reserve for Ad-Hoc Police Practices Review Commission Recommendations carry-over budget process as approved by the Board of Supervisors.

“However, we must understand Phases Two and Three are proposed to be impacted due to the economic decline resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Roessler said in a video posted on the county website.

The cameras will be deployed between three stations and specialized units, Roessler said to WTOP. The Mason, Mount Vernon and Reston stations are included in Phase One, as are motor squads, the canine section and DWI Enforcement squad, per an internal chart shared with WTOP.

“The total number of body-worn camera equipped officers in Phase 1 is 357. Almost all have already been trained, equipped and are currently utilizing their body-worn camera when on-duty. The remaining officers in Phase 1 will be trained and equipped as they return from leave or temporary assignments,” 2nd Lt. Eric Kutner wrote to WTOP in an email.

Fairfax County police officers have completed the last few weeks of required training virtually along with partners at the commonwealth’s attorney’s office and others as part of the planning leading up to the May 1 target launch date, Roessler said.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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