ALEXANDRIA, VA – “In April 2023, the Alexandria Police Department (APD) will begin deployment of Body Worn Cameras (BWC) throughout the department,” says a statement on the Alexandria City website. “This in turn will create greater transparency and accountability in its interactions with the public.”
Deployment of the cameras will be on a rolling basis, with a goal of ensuring every sworn personnel is issued a camera as a part of their required gear within a year.
APD has provided the following answers to Body Worn Cameras FAQ:
What is a Body Worn Camera?
A BWC is a small device that is attached to an officer’s uniform and records interactions between community members and the police department. The cameras will capture both audio and video through a forward-facing camera. The recordings are then downloaded onto a digital storage platform where the encrypted evidence is managed and stored.
How does an officer’s BWC work, and how is a BWC different from a dashboard camera or CCTV system?
The BWCs include a front-facing screen, a one-touch record button, and up to 12 hours of battery life. A dashboard camera is affixed to the vehicle, therefore only capturing images from the front of the vehicle. BWCs allow the footage to capture the officer’s movements and what is in front of them. Closed Circuit Television Cameras (CCTVs) are stationary systems that monitor public spaces, without audio, for crimes in progress.
What are some of the primary limitations of a BWC?
A BWC does not follow an officer’s eyes or see as they see.
Camera speeds differ from real life.
Cameras may see better than the human eye in low light.
An officer’s body may obstruct the camera’s view.
The camera only provides one angle of a scene.
A camera can never replace a thorough investigation.
Why is APD beginning to use BWCs?
The use of BWCs benefits members of the community and APD by improving police services, increasing accountability and transparency for individual interactions, and will help strengthening trust among law enforcement and the community.
Who is allowed to watch these videos? Will BWC footage end up online?
The policy that governs the use of the BWC Program is still in draft form* and is not be complete until we grant the community an opportunity to comment and provide feedback on it.
How will the department handle public and media requests for video from officer BWCs?
The policy that governs the use of the BWC Program is still in draft form* and is not complete to dictate how this will be handled.
In cases when we do release BWC footage, please note it may be redacted to maintain the privacy of the individual(s) involved.
What will prompt an officer to activate a BWC?
Officers would be encouraged to use their BWC for most transactions with the public, there are times when it may be in the best interest of the citizen for an officer not to record a conversation. This will be addressed in the policy for BWCs.
Are BWC recordings confidential, and how long will the department retain the records?
This is dictated by Commonwealth and Federal laws and will be explicitly addressed in the policy*.
Alexandria police officers each receive over 800 hours of basic training, including more than 116 hours in the appropriate use of force; 21 hours in preventing bias; 12 hours in interpersonal communication, ethics and leadership; and nine hours in communicating with specific groups such as individuals with autism, who are deaf, or who have physical disabilities or mental health challenges. Additional training is provided on a continuous basis during each officer’s tenure.
Visit alexandriava.gov/Police for more information about the Alexandria Police Department.
*The draft of the Body Worn Camera policy will be online for public review, as well as a form so the public can provide feedback on the policy.
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