Proposed legislation aims to regulate use of police body cameras in Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. Jan 23 2015 – Coming on the heels of unruly protests in Ferguson, Mo. and the public outcry in New York City, two examples of high profile deaths involving police officers, several Virginia lawmakers want law enforcement across the Commonwealth to wear body cameras as part of their uniforms.

Muriel Diggs agrees with the idea.

“It will protect both sides and we won’t have so much controversy when something happens,” said Diggs.

Under House Bill 2280, any law enforcement agency must adopt a written policy and procedure before using the body cameras.

Here’s how the bill breaks down:

Police have to tell a person they’re being recorded;

Police are not permitted to record in a person’s home or office unless there’s a warrant or an emergency;

Police must say where the recordings are stored;

The recordings can be destroyed in seven days, unless there’s an ongoing criminal investigation;

And, the person recorded can look at the camera and make copies, pending an open investigation.

“I’m not against cameras. I’m against how they’re trying to implement the program,” said Kevin Carroll, President of the Virginia Fraternal Order of Police.

“We take a vow to honor the Constitution, to honor the Constitution of Virginia, to tell the truth, the whole truth and if we find one that’s bad, we’ll get rid of him,” said Carroll.

Carroll also points how it will be a challenge for cash-strapped localities.

“Asset forfeiture money may be enough to get you started in the program in order to buy the cameras that are necessary,” said Carroll. “But it’s not going to be enough to sustain the program over time because asset forfeiture money is not guaranteed every year.”

However, the ACLU calls it a win-win for everyone–if the policy is followed.

“We need to be sure those policies provide disciplinary action in case an officer violates a policy because otherwise, what you get is selective picture taking and not what body cams are good for,” said Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the ACLU.

House Bill 2280 and several other bills involving police body cameras are still making their way through the Virginia’s General Assembly.

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