VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – City Auditor Lyndon Remias says he feels confident that the police department has addressed concerns raised by the Police Benevolent Association over new gun holsters.
The department selected the new equipment, manufactured by Safariland, because it was compatible with technology that automatically activates an officer’s body camera when the gun is drawn.
The controversy over the department’s body cams emerged after an officer shot and killed Donovon Lynch, cousin of entertainer Pharrell Williams, in March 2021 at the Oceanfront. the body cam was not operating at the time of the shooting.
But after a series of incidents involving the Safariland holsters, the PBA notified Remias that it wanted an investigation.
In October of last year, a murder suspect at Virginia Beach General was able to insert his finger into a Safariland holster and fire an officer’s handgun while holstered.
In March, an officer chasing a suspect could not re-holster his handgun because of a design defect, which was uncovered in 3 out of every 4 holsters of the same Safariland model.
And then in May, in an incident eerily similar to last October — a suspect at Virginia Beach General was able to insert his finger into a Safariland holster and fire an officer’s handgun.
According to the auditor’s report, the PBA had made their concerns regarding the holsters in three main areas: retention of the weapon during a struggle; the process the city used in obtaining the holsters; and the adequacy of testing and evaluating them.
City Auditor Lyndon Remias and a staff member went to the police department’s shooting range and training centers in Creeds and Moyock, N.C.
“And they demonstrated to us that you could actually slide a finger into the holster,” he said.
Remias says the city got replacements for the defective holsters at no additional cost.
He says with any kind of holster there will be a risk that someone will try to grab an officer’s gun, but he’s confident that the additional training now required will make a difference.
“You can stick your finger in there, but one jerk by the officer, it’s gonna snap your finger in two. Trust me, we tried it,” Remias said.
Head of the PBA Brian Lucky Luciano told 10 On Your Side he did not want to comment on the auditor’s findings, citing an ongoing lawsuit against Safariland. The PBA’s attorney did not immediately return a phone call seeking a response.
Police Chief Paul Neudigate sent this statement to 10 On Your Side Wednesday afternoon:
“I appreciate the comprehensive analysis that highlights the complexities experienced with transitioning to a holster compatible with our body worn cameras – a necessary technology. The entire department and I are concerned by these two incidents; unfortunately, law enforcement has seen a significant increase nationwide in attempts to disarm police officers; these unacceptable attacks on law enforcement are not unique to Virginia Beach.
What we had identified in the Police Department’s own After-Action Review, and what was reiterated in the report, is the need for annual, comprehensive, and realistic defensive tactics training to ensure our officers are prepared to deal with threats of this magnitude. Now that all training is back to pre-COVID in-person learning, the Department is expanding our annual training in this area to try and preserve perishable skills learned in the recruit academy.”
Neudigate is allowing veteran officers to keep their original holsters. The older holsters, known as Blackhawk, are now equipped with the Signal Sidearm link that activates the body cam once the gun is drawn.