Despite Mixed Feedback, Board of Supervisors Back Police Body-Camera Program

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors largely expressed support for equipping police officers in the county with body-worn cameras, despite mixed results from a recent pilot program.

At a July 9 public safety meeting, most supervisors said body-worn cameras would improve police accountability and community-police relations — particularly among minorities. The meeting was held to review results of the county’s pilot program last year.

If approved by the county’s board, the program would disseminate 1,210 body-worn cameras throughout the county over five years. Police at the Reston District Station would be the first to receive the devices.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova said that failing to implement the program would put the county at a disadvantage, especially when residents can record encounters with police. Without body-worn cameras, Bulova said the police department lacks a critical record of interactions that could be questioned or doctored.

Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay, who also supports the program, said that while public confidence in the police department may be high currently, public sentiment could change within the next five years.

However, a 119-page report from American University researchers, found that while residents and police officers generally supported the program, its perceived benefits were largely minimal.

Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity said he was unconvinced the program was worth the cost. Early estimates indicate the program could cost $30 million over five years, including funding for storage capacity and legal staff required to review and log footage.

“To me, it’s a question of priorities,” Herrity said. He would rather see the county reinvest money into retention, training and community policing efforts.

Others, however, said the American University report does not fully capture the views of minorities, especially Hispanics and African Americans who may have different encounters and different concerns with law enforcement.

Addressing the concerns of people of color is especially critical, said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said that some of the data points in the report were too general and did not capture specific demographic segments.

“It is misleading to speak in generalities,” Foust said.

Photo via Fairfax County Police Department

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