Body Worn Camera Program

Police Officer wearing a body camera

On Wednesday, December 16, 2020, Arlington County Police Officers assigned to the Operations Division began wearing body worn cameras and recording all dispatched calls for service, enforcement contacts and investigative contacts. The deployment of cameras includes officers assigned to Patrol, Special Operations, Community Outreach, K-9 and the Emergency Response Team (commonly referred to as SWAT). This technology compliments the existing in-car camera system and interview room cameras used to document digital and audio video recordings of law enforcement activity and interactions.

Policy Development

Prior to implementation, the department sought community feedback on a draft Digital Evidence Management System policy to ensure it was reflective of the Arlington Community’s values, interests and concerns. ACPD strives to provide the level of service that is not only expected but reflective of this community and appreciates all who took the time to read, review and provide feedback. All officers will review and acknowledge receipt of the final policy and receive training regarding the use of body worn cameras.

Based on the community feedback, the following changes were made to the policy:

  • Modified language in opening statement to reflect that body worn cameras will be used to document digital audio and video recordings of law enforcement activity and interactions with the public.
  • Added the County Attorney as an entity authorized to copy videos for evidentiary purposes during trial.
  • Rewrote the language requiring independent supervisory review in any incident in which an officer deactivates their camera during a listed exception. This expands upon the previous requirement that all camera deactivations must be documented in a police incident report and the officer’s supervisor must be notified.
  • Provided examples of when a recording will hinder or interfere with an investigation such as confidential informants.
  • Added language that turning off the camera is only authorized during non-confrontational encounters.
  • Added language requiring officers to activate their body worn camera at the request of any citizen, including during a consensual contact.

Read Manual Directive 517.08 Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS)

Additional information on identified themes in the feedback

Release of Video

ACPD recognizes that one of the many reasons the public is interested in adopting body worn cameras is to have a video recording of the circumstances surrounding incidents involving the police. While we recognize the need for transparency, any decision to release footage must consider the privacy interests of those captured on film (victims, reporting parties, witness, etc.) especially in locations where they have an expectation of privacy such as inside a residence or other sensitive locations. Additionally, any incident that would be protected under local, state or federal law (such as sexual assaults or incidents involving juveniles) must be protected. At the same time, the public’s desire to know what happened in a particular incident must be balanced against the danger that the premature release of footage could interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation, bias potential jurors or impact the integrity of a future prosecution. When appropriate, the decision to release video evidence will be made in collaboration with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office. Any requests for audio/video recordings will be processed under the Freedom of Information Act.

Video Retention

ACPD follows the retention guidelines set by the Library of Virginia. Recordings not governed by this law are retained for ninety (90) days.

Auditing Process

  • ACPD is committed to holding ourselves accountable to the highest standard of professional law enforcement. To ensure compliance with departmental policy and procedures, the Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is tasked with internal audits on all allegations of misconduct and any concerns of use or misuse of equipment, personnel, or training.
  • The use of the Digital Evidence Management System (DEMS) is subject to monitoring. An internal audit trail documents each time the system is accessed, and any record of deletion is permanently stored within the system. For auditing purposes, supervisors will regularly view videos from their personnel. This enables them to identify training deficiencies, policy violations, and instances of exceptional police work. Additionally, the DEMS Administrator and OPR will monitor the system to ensure audits are being completed, only authorized users are accessing data for legitimate and authorized purposes and the system is being accessed appropriately and in accordance with established policy.

Disciplinary Action for Policy Violations

  • The Digital Evidence Management System policy is part of the department’s Written Directives Manual. In accordance with regulation 401.00 Administrative Rules and Regulations, all employees shall be thoroughly familiar with these rules and regulations and abide by them. Violating any rules or regulation may result in disciplinary action. Lack of knowledge shall not constitute a defense to any disciplinary action.
  • When employee actions are not consistent with departmental policies and procedures, appropriate corrective measures are taken to ensure that type of incident does not occur in the future; this includes disciplinary action, up to and including termination. All internal administrative investigations are tracked and stored by OPR. Failure to report an incident and/or misconduct by any member of the department is not tolerated.

Civilian Oversight

Civilian review board and oversight are not part of the body worn camera program but is part of the assessment of the County Manager’s appointed Police Practices Work Group.

Program Funding

In July 2020, the Arlington County Board adopted the FY 2021 Capital Improvement Plan which included $1.05 million to begin implementation of a body-worn camera program for the Arlington County Police Department, Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, and Arlington County Fire Marshals. Specifically, the CIP provided $268,000 for body worn camera hardware; $244,000 for upgrades to four County courtrooms to support the technology; $536,000 for data storage, software, and maintenance; and $755,000 for replacing existing in-car camera systems to one compatible with body worn cameras.