Selected police officers from the Reston District Station will begin wearing body cameras in March as part of the Fairfax County Police Department’s pilot program that was approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors last month.
The station was added to the program, which originally would have outfitted all patrol officers in the Mount Vernon and Mason district stations, because extra equipment is available, police said.
Researchers from American University who are studying the program determined it was more appropriate to outfit half of the patrol officers in each district in order to create a control group that would allow researchers to compare data between officers who do and do not have body cameras and work in the same area of the county.
“The Reston area was chosen because it differs from the two police districts already included in the program. The patrol areas within the Reston District include a number of high-rise buildings as well as stops along Metro’s Silver Line. Additionally, our Reston District Police Station is the newest building among our stations, and already has the physical infrastructure in place to accommodate the technical needs of the program,” the police department said in a statement.
The pilot program includes 230 cameras, which will be worn on the outside of the officer’s uniform or vest on a full-time basis. The addition of the Reston District Station is not projected to increase the cost of the three-month program, which will cost roughly $684,000 in fiscal year 2018. The department has the option of extending the program from three to six months.
In an Oct. 2015 report, the county’s Ad Hoc Police Review Commission recommended the program in order to increase community trust, improve evidence collection, decrease the number of complains against police officers and drive a “civilizing effect.”
“Statistics have clearly shown a decrease in use of force encounters, and in the resultant number of complaints by civilians against the local police departments once those departments employ [body cameras]. The reduction in complaints and the level of violence from both law enforcement officers and civilians with whom they interact daily perhaps serves as the greatest motivation for FCPD to begin using the cameras,” according to the report.
Cameras will record during any encounter of law enforcement and the pubic related to a call for service, a law enforcement action, subject stop, traffic stop, search or police service. Police officers are also expected to activate the devises in a private resident so long as officers have the legal authority to be in that location.
The devices are from Axon, a law enforcement technology giant formerly known as Taser International.