VIRGINIA BEACH — Sheriff’s deputies assisting police at the Something in the Water festival next week will wear body-worn cameras, a new step in the city’s goal to bring more transparency to law enforcement efforts.
But first, the Sheriff’s Office must adopt a policy on how the cameras will be used and how the footage will be managed, stored and retrieved.
Virginia law requires law enforcement agencies to establish a body-worn camera policy before the cameras are installed and make the policy available for public comment and review.
The draft Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office body-worn camera policy is posted on vbso.net. Scroll to the bottom of the home page to find it. Comments can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be collected until Monday at 17.00.
Sheriff Ken Stolle last month requested cameras for all of his employees who provide law enforcement services in support of the police department and for those who issue summonses, warrants and evictions. Eventually, he also wants cameras for deputies who work in the city’s jail and courthouses.
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The Sheriff’s Office has 441 sworn law enforcement personnel. The City Council approved $640,000 for the first round of 220 cameras in March.
Deputies will turn on their cameras at the beginning of each shift and keep them on, except in certain cases, including during strip searches, according to the 10-page draft policy.
All videos will contain tracking software to indicate who has viewed the footage and whether the data has been edited.
The policy also says that recordings will be made publicly available with “authorization of the sheriff or designee and in accordance with state and federal disclosure, privacy and other applicable laws, including the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.”
The police department has been using Axon body-worn cameras since 2021. The Sheriff’s Office will have the same equipment package that police use, which includes tasers. A separate policy will be developed at a later date prior to the deployment of tasers, according to a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
Money for the additional 280 cameras the sheriff is requesting could be approved by the City Council in next month’s upcoming budget.
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, email@example.com