Virginia Beach police, public discuss body cameras

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia Beach police officers met with members of the public Wednesday night to discuss plans to bring body cameras to the department.

“We did a number of research projects to get us to this point today. We wanted to turn some of this information over to the public,” said Chief James Cervera.

Cervera and Capt. Todd Jones led the presentation starting at 6 p.m. inside the Meyera Oberndorf Central Library. Only about a dozen members of the public attended, and most had questions.

“There’s a lot of issues that we have to deal with and what we want to do is deal with as many of those issues as we can ahead of time, so that once we roll the program out we don’t have some impediments along the way,” said Chief Cervera.

Right now, many questions remain surrounding when officers will turn cameras on and off, and whether they’ll be able to play video back before filing a report.

By law, video pertaining to an active investigation must be saved for 75 years, but there’s no law mandating how long investigators need to save video that isn’t part of an active investigation.

It was those yet-to-be-determined policies that sparked much of the discussions.

Some in the audience asked about cost.

Capt. Jones said that the department plans to purchase 450 cameras, costing an average of $1,000 a piece.

A proposal will be presented to city council in the coming months. Councilwoman Amelia Ross-Hammond attended the forum and told the crowd that she’s on board.

“I think this is very important,” she said.

“I just think it’s a great idea and I trust them to do the right thing,” said Anne Kerney, a Virginia Beach resident for more than 40 years. “I’m sure council will approve it.”

If that happens, the next step will be purchasing the equipment, and then hiring extra hands for the implementation.

The plan is to phase cameras in over four years, starting in Jan. 2017.

Police said that research shows the presence of cameras can lead to better behavior – of all parties involved.

Charlie Fleischman, who’s lived in the city since the 1970s, said that while he already feels safe, body cameras can’t hurt.

“Hopefully, eventually, it will lead to an even better city,” he said. “I think it’s important for our community, for the transparency and the accountability.”

A second public forum is scheduled for January 23rd, 1-3 p.m. inside the Law Enforcement Training Academy.

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