The Fairfax County Police Department is set to receive roughly 1,200 body-worn cameras that would be phased in over three years with a five-year contract for equipment, licensing and storage.
Officers from the Reston District Station are expected to receive the body worn cameras in May 2020.
The approval comes amid mixed results of a recent American University study on the county’s pilot program and some concern about the cost of the program.
Before the vote, Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity shared concerns about the fiscal impact of the proposal.
Herrity said that he has concerns about the funding coming from the reserve — one-time fund — and that body worn cameras are getting prioritized over increases in police officers’ pay.
“This is going to set our public safety budget back by millions of dollars,” Herrity said, adding that he wants more information about the extra costs the cameras will place on the Public Defenders’ Office.
While Herrity also took issue with the approval for the funding happening outside of the budget cycle, Chairman Sharon Bulova said it’s necessary to have the funding before the budget decisions in May.
The $4.3 million approved by the board today comes from the Reserve for Ad-Hoc Police Practices Review Commission Recommendations.
“This amount will cover the initial cost of equipment, infrastructure enhancements and will allow for the immediate recruitment and hiring of personnel to ensure a seamless implementation on or about May 1,” according to county documents.
In response to Herrity’s concerns that the program is meant to address national issues with police, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust said that the program is not trying to address criticism of police outside of Fairfax County.
“The overwhelming support in the community for doing this is important. We know our community pretty well and we know the respect the community has for the Fairfax County Police Department,” Foust said. “We have the tech to do it, and we should move forward.”
Story by Catherine Douglas Moran; Fatimah Waseem contributed reporting
Fairfax County officials want to take a closer look at the costs linked to adding body worn cameras to the county’s police department.
After studies observing the impact of police officers wearing body cameras while on duty, several members on the Board of Supervisors came out in support of the new proposal draft. As body worn cameras get closer to receiving the board’s approval, two supervisors want more information to determine the fiscal impact of the project.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity kicked off the discussion of the body worn cameras at the Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday (Sept. 17) by asking what the fiscal impact would be.
The program would cost about $6.2 million by fiscal year 2022, Deputy County Executive for Public Safety Dave Rohrer told the board.
“That includes the Commonwealth Department of Information Technology, the police officers, the cameras, the storage and equipment,” Rohrer said. “It’s an all-in number.”
Braddock District Supervisor John Cook said that if Board of Supervisors approves the action items on the body worn cameras at the meeting next Tuesday (Sept. 24), he will request a report on how it could affect the budget for the Public Defenders’ Office.
Cook noted that the presentation about the pilot program included information about costs for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
Photo via Fairfax County Police Department
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on a body-worn camera program for the Fairfax County Police Department later this month.
If the board’s public safety committee votes in favor of the program today (Tuesday), the board will likely vote on the project on September 24.
Earlier this year, American University researchers analyzed the effects of body-worn cameras on the use of force, changes in policing activities, community members’ assessments of police legitimacy, and the number of community complaints. The report detailed mixed findings. While residents supported the adoption of the program, there was no evidence the cameras directly impacted community member’s satisfied with FCPD.
The program, which would be phased out over three years, will cost $4.3 million next year — a sum that will be covered from the county’s reserve funds. In 2021, the program is expected to cost $5.5 million and roughly $1.1 million in 2022.
If approved, more than 1,200 camera will be deployed to all district stations. Overall, 34 new full-time employees will be hired, including five staff members for FCPD, 23 staff members for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, and six positions with the Department of Information Technology.
Police officers at the Reston District Station — which was included in last year’s pilot program — would be the first to receive the devices if the program is approved.
School Resource Officers are also expected to receive body-worn cameras. However, the committee cautioned that decisions to deploy the devices will be made in concert with the Fairfax County School Board and the Board of Supervisors.
The county contracted American University researchers to study the effects of the pilot program after FCPD Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. recommended implementing the program in June 2015. A six-month pilot began in March last year in the Mason, Mount Vernon and Reston district stations.
At a committee meeting in June, board supervisors largely expressed support for the program.
Photo via FCPD
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
The results of an analysis on the county’s pilot body-worn camera program are officially in. Researchers at American University found that the six-month pilot project could have limited results in enhancing policy-community relations increasing police legitimacy and accountability.
In a 119-page report that uses survey data from residents and police officers, researchers found that people had “modest expectations” about the necessity and benefit of body-worn cameras.
Less than half of survey respondents and interviewees noted that the devices would reduce complaints against officers, improve legitimacy or increase police accountability. Police officers also noted that it was unlikely that the devices would change their behavior or how community members responded to the police department.
“If the decision is not to deploy them, the high regard for the department will lead nearly everyone to conclude that it was the right decision for all,” the report states.
Researchers did not find any statistically significant changes in officer behavior and performance once the devices were deployed. They also found that respondents were unconvinced that the cameras would lessen the use of force by police.
The pilot program went into effect in March last year after Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler and a police commission suggested the idea. Last year, 191 cameras were deployed at the Mason, Mount Vernon and Reston District Station, yielding more than 12,000 hours of video.
The police department found that judges, clerks of the courts and staff from the office of the public defendant generally supported the program.
If the program is implemented, the county would deploy 1,210 body-worn cameras to all operational police officers over five years. The Reston, Mason and Mt. Vernon district stations would be the first to get the cameras.
The program could cost nearly $30 million over a five-year contract period. The county would have to hire staff to manage the technical aspects of the equipment, improve station infrastructure and ensure public records laws were being followed.
Additionally, the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney would need nearly $3.1 million for 23 positions to help review the footage, roughly $773,000 to help the court system use the videos generated by the cameras in the court-rooms, and $150,000 to boost storage capacity to capture video evidence.
The county still has to mull several issues:
- The impact of the devices on prosecutors, public defenders and the court system is entirely unclear
- The Commonwealth Attorney’s Office cannot accommodate planned growth
- Whether or not cameras should be given to School Resources Officers
- Training requirements for the defense bar
- The possibility that future contract costs could increase
The report will be presented to the county’s Public Safety Committee today (July 9).
Photo via FCPD
Police officers in Reston will no longer be equipped with body-worn cameras, as the pilot program ends in three Fairfax County police stations.
The program began in mid-February after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the pilot program in November last year. Three stations – Mason, Mount Vernon and Reston – participated in the program.
Reston was added to the program in March because extra equipment was available. Police department officers also said Reston’s location near several high-rise buildings and the Silver Line provided unique data from patrol units.
A research team at American University will study the program’s effectiveness and interview trained officers and community members to determine the effect the equipment on police activity and perception of police legitimacy in the community.
The team will also analyze data about the number and type of complaints filed against officers during the time the pilot program was in effect.
A report is expected in early 2019. The program cost roughly $684,000 in fiscal year 2018.
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.