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VBPD chief speaks exclusively to News 3 about problematic gun holsters that could put lives in danger

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Posted at 5:25 PM, Oct 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-29 18:33:36-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - A News 3 investigation uncovered problems with gun holsters used by Virginia Beach Police officers.

Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate spoke exclusively with News 3 about this recent problem that was discovered by his training bureau team.

“Shock, absolute shock when I saw the video of this holster failure. We had to make an immediate decision because my officers are in danger,” said Neudigate.

He made the decision to collect 900 holsters that have been given out to the department over the last several months.

This potential problem was discovered after an official review of what happened inside Sentara Virginia Beach General last week.

Matthew Christie is accused of killing his mom.

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Matthew Christie

Police say he tried to escape custody at the hospital and fled into a stairwell. They allege that Christie was able to get his finger on an officer’s gun, and it went off.

Luckily, no one was hurt.

Neudigate ordered an After-Action Review of what happened, which is standard protocol for this type of situation. The chief said that is when the potential flaw was discovered.

However, he said the flaw is separate from what happened at the hospital.

“We knew that we had to take immediate steps because the holsters that we had, our officers could’ve very easily been disarmed,” said Neudigate.

The holsters had signal side-arm technology - or basically, automatically turning on an officer's body camera when they draw their gun instead of having to turn it on manually.

This upgrade and other technological upgrades to the department took place over the summer.

These changes came after violence at the Oceanfront in March.

Donovon Lynch was killed by an officer, but there was no body camera video. Another person was killed by gun violence and several others were injured that night.

News 3 asked the chief if there was a rush to get the new technology because of public pressure after the shooting.

“There was definitely a rush. There was community expectations for us to try to find a solution that implemented a technology, and we went with a proven manufacturer. The holsters that we issued are probably carried by 94% of all the law enforcement,” said Neudigate.

But likely a much smaller number of departments using the potentially flawed model.

Now, Virginia Beach Police officers are using their previous holsters.

The chief says body cameras are always on, and when activated they automatically records two minutes prior instead of the previous 30 seconds. Thirty seconds was the previous practice when the shooting at the Oceanfront happened.

The chief stressed that his officers like body cameras.

“The officers want it because it provides a very objective accounting of what occurred," he said.

He said they are working with the company that makes the holsters to figure out what to do next.

“We really need to take a step back and figure out what is best moving forward to ensure that we have the right product for our officers to ensure the safety of our community and not rush into another decision just to accommodate the signal side-arm technology,” said Neudigate.

He asked for the public’s patience.

“This is not a decision that we took lightly. We put it out there because we want the trust of the community that we are implementing technology and taking steps to ensure transparency and accountability,” said Neudigate.

The chief said he reached out to the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police to inform them of the issue. He said they have also received calls from around the country.

We have reached out to Safariland to ask them about the issue and the particular model, 7360 RDS-8327-411, but they have not responded to us.

Click here for more News 3 Investigations.