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JUST IN: Arlington Police to Start Wearing Body Cameras Tomorrow

Arlington County police officers will start wearing body cameras on Wednesday, the police department announced today.

The relatively swift implementation of the new body-worn cameras follows a community discussion of police practices in Arlington, which itself followed the civil unrest caused by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis this past May.

“Effective Wednesday, December 16, 2020, Arlington County Police Officers assigned to the Operations Division will begin wearing body worn cameras and recording all dispatched calls for service, enforcement contacts and investigative contacts,” ACPD said today. “The deployment of cameras includes officers assigned to Patrol, Special Operations, Community Outreach, K-9 and the Emergency Response Team (commonly referred to as SWAT).”

The department already has cameras in police cruisers and interview rooms.

The Arlington branch of the NAACP launched a petition in June calling for ACPD to implement body-worn cameras. The online petition now has more than 12,000 signers.

“The Arlington County Police Department welcomes the use of body worn camera technology as an additional tool in our commitment to providing professional law enforcement services to the Arlington community,” Acting Police Chief Andy Penn in a press release. “We recognize our community’s trust is earned each day with every interaction. I am confident these cameras will build upon our longstanding history of community policing by highlighting the professionalism of the agency while instilling greater public confidence as we continue to hold ourselves accountable to the highest professional standards.”

More from the press release:

In June, County Manager Mark Schwartz announced funding for a Body Worn Camera program for the Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, and Fire Marshal’s Office as part of his proposed FY 2021 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). In July, the County Board approved the CIP and funding for the program. Specifically, the CIP provided $268,000 for body worn camera hardware; $244,000 for upgrades to four County courtrooms to support the technology; $536,000 for data storage, software, and maintenance; and $755,000 for replacing existing in-car camera systems to one compatible with body worn cameras.

In November, the Police Department, Sheriff’s Office and Fire Marshals’ Office sought the public’s input and feedback on draft Digital Evidence Management System policies, regulating digital audio and video recordings captured by body worn cameras, in-car cameras, and interview room cameras. The goal of this engagement was to create model policies utilizing established best practices and to continue to strengthen community relations and professional standards within the departments by enhancing transparency, accountability and training. All comments were reviewed and evaluated for incorporation into the policies.

In New York City, body-worn cameras were recently found to have increased officer reporting of police stops, helping to improve accountability.

Despite the new body cameras, Arlington County has a policy of turning off public feeds of traffic cameras during police and fire department incidents.

Photo courtesy ACPD

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