VBPD stops using holsters that automatically activate bodycams after hospital incident reveals ‘potential defect’ in equipment

Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach police say a recent incident at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital in which an officer’s service weapon was discharged during a struggle with a homicide suspect has caused the department to recall all holsters of that type.

In a statement Tuesday, city police said what happened at the hospital four days earlier on Oct. 22 revealed a potential defect with the officers’ new Safariland holsters.

For now, “out of an abundance of caution,” officers will not use the Safariland model holsters, which were issued within the Virginia Beach Police Department to accommodate Signal Sidearm technology.

Signal Sidearm automatically activates an officer’s body camera when their weapon is pulled from its holster.

This year, Virginia Beach police have been under the microscope as they worked to ensure the Signal Sidearm device was usable with their holsters. While the department had access to the Signal technology earlier this year, it wasn’t in use because the department’s existing holsters weren’t physically able to fit the equipment.

The information that Signal devices couldn’t fit with existing holsters came out after 25-year-old Donovon Lynch was shot and killed by a police officer at the Oceanfront on March 26. Police said Lynch brandished a firearm, which his family disputes. There is no footage available from the incident because the officer’s body camera was off for “unknown reasons.” It did not automatically turn on when the officer pulled his weapon because Signal Sidearm technology was not yet in use.

In June, the police department released an update saying all officers were now equipped with body cameras, the culmination of a multi-year effort to get body cameras for all sworn personnel.

In that update, VBPD also said they were working with the holster manufacturer to create new holsters that would fit the Signal device. They could not retrofit their existing holsters.

Tuesday’s update indicated that the new holsters that fit Signal Sidearm were now in use. However, officials expressed disappointment at the potential issue with the new holster.

For now, all officers will use the previously-issued holsters, which cannot accommodate the device that automatically activates bodycams.

“We are extremely disappointed because we thought we had a reliable solution that automatically activates our cameras,” said Deputy Chief Sean Adams in the VBPD news release Tuesday. “However, reverting to the previously used holster is the best short-term solution to ensure the safety of officers and the public while we work with the vendor on a solution.”

The department’s recall of the holsters came after Chief Paul Neudigate directed the Virginia Beach Police Department’s (VBPD) Training Bureau to conduct an After-Action Review and examine the equipment and circumstances of the incident at the hospital.

While officers will not have the Signal Sidearm device, they still must adhere to a policy issued this year that requires them to turn on their body cameras as soon as they mark “en route” to a call.

The previous policy dictated that officers must activate their body cameras as soon as they arrive on scene and as soon as it’s “safe and practical to do so.”

City police cruisers also have in-car cameras that will activate all body cameras within a certain vicinity.

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