Police policy advises against personal body cameras

NORFOLK, Va (WAVY) – During the trial of Norfolk police officer Michael Edington, we learned that he was wearing a personal body camera when he shot David Latham.

10 On Your Side’s Stephanie Harris learned that such personal devices are against the department’s rules.

The police officers manual in use at the time stated:

“While on duty, officers shall not have in their possession radios, television sets or any electronic devices of any type that are not issued or approved by the Department. These items may not be carried in any police units or be used in any manner while on duty unless approved by the Chief of Police”

The current policy has been updated to read:

“While on duty, electronic devices not issued or approved by the department shall not distract officers from official duties. Officers are to exercise good judgement and use personal cell phones only briefly when there is an urgent or important need. Other electronic devices not issued or approved by the Department shall not be carried while on duty unless for use in a business capacity and approved by the Chief of Police.”

The Norfolk Police Department does have body cameras, but they did not issue them to officers until Feb of 2015; eight months after the incident.

10 On Your Side checked with other local police departments for their policies. Suffolk, Portsmouth and Newport News all have policies that prohibit personal body cameras.

The President of the Virginia Beach Police Union, Lucky Luciano, told 10 On Your Side that while he is unaware of any officers in that city having personal body cameras, officers have carried personal recording devices pretty much since they were invented; mostly handheld tape recorders.

Luciano also indicated that officers were discouraged from taking pictures or video with their personal cell phones. This is because when you
do it, they become evidence, and when it is subpoenaed you have to turn over your whole phone and everything in it; not just the relevant pictures.