Sunday, April 2, 2017

Request To Expand Body Cam Use In Gloucester County, Virginia

Photo property of The Austin Chronicle.

Body cams are rapidly becoming the norm in American police departments because of their probative value in documenting encounters between law enforcement and the citizenry. They are also increasingly being used by other government employees like Animal Control officers and codes, building, storm water management and other such inspectors. Sometimes animal owners, property owners, contractors and others aren’t very happy when issued code violations. Sometimes animal officers, inspectors and other such public servants are over zealous in the performance of their duties. Body Cameras are a good way to promote integrity on both sides of public service transactions and the most reliable way to document contentious situations. Body cams are also a good way for leadership to insure employees are properly doing their jobs and acting accordingly when they encounter people in the community.

Since the deployment of body cams by our Sheriff’s Department, we have learned the $300 to $1,000 cost per camera is not the only costs associated with using body cams. There are camera repair and replacement costs, data storage costs and costs for the labor intensive processes of viewing, processing and logging hours of video. Available data suggests these costs can equate to between $1,500 and $4,500 per camera per year, but also suggests these costs will likely drop as more localities implement body cam use. Despite the costs, body cams enjoy very strong public support, with 88 percent of those surveyed in an Economist/YouGov poll backing their use.

Considering Gloucester was fortunate enough to have the Sheriff’s department body cams donated and has already invested funds in data storage and processing labor, it only makes sense to take the next step by outfitting our Animal Control officers with body cams. Doing so will enhance the County Administrator’s management of Animal Control officers, enable them to know where their vehicles are and actually see what the officers are doing while they are out in the community. Animal control has already established a history of making separate audio and video recordings of encounters with citizens, but such recordings have only commenced and ended at the pleasure, convenience and whim of the Animal Control officers. Why not take the next step by combining the two recordings in a continuous format that will level the playing field between the officers and the citizens? Outfitting Animal Control officers with body cams will also provide far more clarity of what actually takes place from the beginning to the end of officer and citizen encounters.

The annual costs to outfit Animal Control with body cams will be insignificant in comparison to the benefits we have outlined. Funding should be dedicated in the FY 18 budget to cover the costs of outfitting all of our Animal Control officers with body cams. 

What is your opinion?

Kenny Hogge, Sr.
Gloucester Point 

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