For about the past six months a group of Fairfax County police officers has been wearing body cameras. Slightly more than 200 officers in the Mason, Mount Vernon and Reston police districts were issued the cameras as part of a pilot program. That program ended as the clock struck midnight Friday night.
During the test, officers were expected to activate their body cams during any law enforcement-public encounter related to a call for service, law enforcement action, subject stop, traffic stop, search or police service. The officers were instructed to start recording at their arrival/response, or as soon as it was practical and safe to do so, and leave it on for the duration of the incident.
There were several circumstances and locations where officers were told not to record. They’re outlined in the full bodycam policy.
The bodycam policy was drafted with input from community stakeholders, including leaders of special interest, civic, and business organizations. There are several sections of the policy that address the personal privacy rights and constitutional safeguards of individuals. Police officials have said the ultimate goal of the cameras is to promote transparency and accountability in police-community member encounters.
The pilot program was recommended by the county’s police chief in December 2016 and was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2017.
Now it’s time to crunch the data
A research team at American University will now study the findings from the pilot program. It will survey community members and police officers to determine what effect the cameras may have had on police activity. It will also look a whether the body cams impacted the perceptions of police in the community. Finally, the team will analyze data on the number and nature of complaints against officers during this time the cameras were being used.
A full report is expected in early 2019.