Virginia Beach Police to discuss body-worn camera program at community forum

Posted at 12:38 PM, Jan 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-13 18:47:04-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Virginia Beach Police Department is holding the first of two community forums to discuss the agency's planned body-worn camera program on Wednesday night.

Police say they want to meet with the community to openly discuss the program before proceed with it.

According to the Facebook event, the department has been researching the program for several years.

Police hope to issue body-worn cameras as a part of their daily equipment in early 2017, if they have the proper resources and funding.

Councilwoman Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond says they will be implemented in several phases.

"Looking at the policies and the laws, as well as considering funding, the right resources, that takes time, so just jumping into something without that background, to me, I feel we shouldn't do it that way."

However, it is not just the police department that has to worry about the costs.

“Instituting body cameras is a policy decision for City Council to make; however, the amount of time and resources to my office would increase significantly. My position has always been that if the City institutes body cameras, it needs to be done with an understanding that the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office will need additional staff and equipment in order to meet our ethical obligation of reviewing any and all evidence obtained by law enforcement," says Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle in a statement to NewsChannel 3.

Police say they intend to have most of their uniformed patrol officers with the cameras in the hopes to be more transparent and accountable.

They will be the last of the seven Hampton Roads cities to implement the body cameras.

"We may be the last in, but it's like saving the best for last," says Dr. Ross-Hammond. "It takes time, it takes money, and we better be ready."

Dr. Ross-Hammond says they are reaching out to the General Assembly for help with the funding costs.

The first community forum will be held at the Meyera Oberndorf Central Library on January 13th from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

There will be a short presentation followed by a question and answer session.

The second forum will be held at the Law Enforcement Training Academy, on 411 Integrity Way, on January 23rd from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.

Below are the body camera numbers for the cities across Hampton Roads:

  • Norfolk Police Department: 300 body cameras to record during traffic stops and pursuits, crimes or incidents in progress, arrests or detentions, searches, mental health calls, and events or incidents that could become aggressive or confrontational. Whenever safe and practical, officers will advise citizens that the camera is recording
  • Hampton Police: 80 body cameras to officers working in patrol function throughout the city
  • Portsmouth Police: Approximately 220 body cameras that will be used for any citizen contact that officers have
  • Chesapeake Police: 253 body cameras that officers are required to turn on anytime they have contact with citizens
  • Suffolk Police: 129 cameras, but only 108 are in use. It is required that all body-worn cameras will be activated to record with each citizen encounter related to a call for service, any law enforcement action, traffic stop, and/or any other police service not outlined as prohibited in policy.
  • Newport News Police: As of April 2015, police had about 180 body cameras for about half of their patrol officers.