Arlington County Police testing body cameras

Some body cameras will become standard issue for police officers in Arlington, Virginia. The details of the body program still need to be worked out, but Iot a first-hand look at one of the cameras today.

With just a double tap, the camera starts recording both audio and video. “To turn it on is really simple,” says an Arlington County Police officer who is testing out the cameras. On day one of the program, he’s already used the camera 4 times.

“We turn it on every time we get dispatched to a call, anytime we are on a traffic stop,” says the officer, who did not want to be identified. “With a couple of exceptions, pretty much any time we interact with anyone while we are on duty.” He’s one of 25 officers who will be testing out the body cameras during the pilot program, which lasts until mid-December.

Ashley Savage with the Arlington County Police Department says officers will be required to turn the camera on during a call for service, and leave it on. “They cannot turn it off during any of the contact, they need to record the whole thing,” says Savage.

Once turned on, the camera will automatically record for 30 seconds prior. In the state of Virginia, officers don’t have to tell you you’re being recorded. Most people say that’s a non-issue for them, what is concerning, is how these cameras will be regulated. “I think it’s a win-win situation for everybody,” says Arlington County resident, Pat Carty. “I can’t see any bad side to it, as long as they don’t turn them off.”

Terry Adams is a criminal defense attorney in Arlington, and he knows body cameras could have a big impact on his clients. But Terry has an especially unique perspective on the issue, he spent 18 years as a sheriff’s deputy in Arlington County.¬† “If the officers are required to activate their own cameras it could get dicey because if they are in a hurry and it’s an emergency situation, you will miss a lot of what happened before,” says Terry. “And what happened before is the most important.”

Arlington County Police say they have the same concerns, and that’s what this pilot program is for, to determine what works and what doesn’t.

it will be a good test for the first priority call that goes out, your blood starts pumping, do you remember to double tap? We’ll find out,” says the Arlington County Police Officer.

At the end of their shift, officers will upload the video to a cloud-based service. Now how long that video will be saved will depend on how serious the recorded offense is. For example, a serious offense that is not resolved must be saved for 100 years, per the Library of Virginia. Saving that much data will mean a big expense for the department. Three different models of body cameras will be tested over the next few months, then a determination will be made based on which service works best and is most cost-effective.


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