Henrico Police body camera policy draft shines light on future of police surveillance

by | Jan 22, 2015 | POLITICS

The Henrico County Police Division is hoping to have their officers outfitted with body-worn cameras in 2015.


The Henrico County Police Division is hoping to have their officers outfitted with body-worn cameras in 2015.

A policy draft released to community groups from Chief of Police Douglas Middleton states, “The Body Worn Camera is an audio and video recording system worn by officers which captures incidents from the officer’s perspective as an additional means of documenting specific incidents in the field.”

Recent controversy surrounding police procedure in Ferguson, MO; Cleveland, OH; and New York City, NY has sparked discussion about the use of body worn cameras by police officers, and it’s been largely regarded as a mutually beneficial practice for both officers and citizens.

Captain Mike Palkovics of the Henrico County Police Division agrees, and said they want to get BWCs on officers pronto.

“There is support [from within the force], absolutely. This provides an opportunity for a recording from [an officer’s] positioning,” Cpt. Palkovics said. “Our Chief has been working on this project for almost 18 months… I think it’s exciting to do the training. I think it’s very unique and exciting for us going forward. There’s also a lot to learn going forward.”

Claire Gastañaga, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia, praised Chief Middleton’s desire to be progressive in his policing when it comes to camera use, but she also wants to make sure Henrico PD engages the community during the process.

“My impression of the Chief is that he wants to be ahead of the curve, and not behind it. He really is trying to think proactively and constructively,” Gastañaga said, stressing how the community needs a voice in the policy making, and the training within the department is handled well.

“Clearly the Chief is very much interested in doing both things,” she said.

Gastañaga and the VA ACLU have held meetings with Henrico police about the future of body worn cameras. Other groups, like the VA NAACP and members of Richmond’s LGBTQ community have participated in meetings with HPD as well.

The policy draft is decidedly specific in how and when officers should activate the cameras. It states: “When it is reasonable, practicable, and safe to do so, officers should advise citizens the encounter is being captured,” and “The Body Worn Camera shall be activated anytime an officer has contact with a citizen to investigate acts involving actual or potential violations of the law, calls for service that include a suspect(s) or potential suspect(s), and anytime the behavior of a citizen becomes verbally or physically aggressive.”

The next step in the process, the storage of all of that footage, is something Gastañaga said might be worrisome. Evidence.com, a third party service which works specifically police departments around the country, was the business listed on the draft policy as a possible resource.

“All the video is uploaded directly to a site the officer has no control over, so there’s no way for the officer to modify the video, and that’s a good thing.” Gastañaga said she liked the footage being unavailable to police officers after it was uploaded, but the fact that the footage was going to a private company was cause for concern.

“Whether (the website) can be hacked, who owns the material,” she said.

Henrico County would be paying for the cameras through Virginia’s Asset Forfeiture Program, a polarizing concept which basically allows “local law enforcement agencies to benefit from the seizure of monies, property, and goods connected with the illegal distribution of narcotics,” as described on the Virginia Department of Civil Justice Services website.

Captain Malkovics says the Henrico County PD aims to get their officers trained, purchase the equipment, and get them on the street with the BWCs in the first half of 2015.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner




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