Va. Beach police ask for public input on body cameras

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Police want public input on its body camera policy.

The first of two community forums on the topic will be held Wednesday night.

A news release from Chief Jim Cervera said the forums will discuss the agency’s planned body-worn camera program.

Virginia Beach Police have been researching this topic for several years and with the proper resources and funding hope to issue body-worn cameras as part of our daily equipment in early 2017, the release said.

According to the release, it is the plan to outfit most of the uniformed patrol officers with this technology to record encounters between police and citizens.

Body cameras will allow us to be more transparent and accountable to the citizens we serve and will provide an additional, unbiased view of these interaction, the release said.

Chief Cervera said in the release, “Before we finalize our policy and proceed with this program we would like to meet with members of the community to openly discuss this program.” He continued, “There are many items to discuss, including the type of equipment, why we are investing in the technology and the many policy related details we wish to consider. Most importantly, we want to hear from you.”

The community forums will feature a short presentation followed by a question and answer session.

Privacy concerns may be part of the discussion.

On WAVY News 10 at 5 p.m., 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings interviewed Capt. Todd Jones. He is the lead researcher on the cameras. She asked him if the public can expect to see more of the body camera video to be released.

“That’s one of the big topics we want to discuss tonight because we want to educate people that it’s not a matter of ‘we just don’t want to release it,'” said Jones. “FOIA is very specific in the state law, and it tells us what we can and what we cannot release so in many cases if it’s a criminal investigation perhaps it would not be wise to release that information. So, we’re going to follow what FOIA tells us to do and in a lot of cases it means not releasing the video.”

The first forum will be held at the Meyera Oberndorf Central Library on January 13, 2016, from 6:00 – 8:00 pm.

The second forum will be held at the Law Enforcement Training Academy, 411 Integrity Way (near 19th St. & Birdneck Rd.) on January 23rd, 2016, from 1:00 – 3:00 pm.

Police ask that citizens contact Captain Todd Jones, Personnel Development and Training Division, 2509 Princess Anne Road, Building 11, Virginia Beach, VA 23456 with policy concerns. You can send Jones an email at Tjones@vbgov.com.

To read the report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on police worn body camera policies, click here.

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