After many delays, VBPD is ready to launch their body cameras

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — After many delays, the last police force in Hampton Roads to implement a body camera program is ready to launch.

Virginia Beach Police Chief Jim Cervera held a press briefing on Friday to update the public on the department’s plans for the program and demonstrate the new technology. 

“We wanted to get it right,” said Virginia Beach Police Captain Todd Jones.

It took Virginia Beach police four years to outfit its officers with body camera, but the process is underway.

“We did not have a time clock that said ‘you have got to be done by this date,'” Jones added.

The area’s largest police department was last to get body cameras.  Police say it just not as easy as buying a camera and putting it on an officer.

The department says it consulted surrounding departments first.

Jones says every agency he spoke with told him to take his time.

July 16th, 20 offices in the 4th Precinct were giving the body cameras.

Police bought the equipment from Axon.

The department plans to slowly pass out the cameras in four phases, each lasting several weeks.  Ultimately, 450 cameras will be on the streets.  The department will also add 250 new dash board cameras for patrol cars.

“It’s going to document everything that we do so it’s going to add I think an accountability piece,” Jones said.

Police say officers can activate the cameras by pushing a button.  There is a remote starter connected to gun and taser holster.  When those weapons are pulled, the camera begins.

The job is just as big for prosecutors.  The Commonwealth’s Attorney had add more than a dozen employees to help comb through what is expected to be about 15,000 hours of footage yearly.

“It certainly makes the cases more cut and dry when the attorney and defendant can see the video and the evidence that is presented,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Colin Stolle.

The whole system including hard ware and soft ware is going to cost the city about $4.5 million.

Back in 2017, Cervera said he wanted 110 officers wearing the body cameras by June of that year, but that didn’t happen. He says it took longer they initially expected to draft a policy for the body cameras, as well as to select a company and the technology they wanted to use.

The cameras arrived back in May and were originally scheduled to launch a month ago.

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