Police video cameras, especially those that attach to an officer’s eyewear or vest, are now considered vital pieces of equipment that can protect officers who use deadly force or exonerate victims who were shot or beaten without good reason.
But Virginia’s Chesterfield County, which has embraced body cameras, has a new and unexpected problem. The problem, according to Commonwealth’s Attorney William Davenport, is that the department doesn’t have the resources to handle all of the information the cameras provide.
“The county has made a mistake with the way the cameras were implemented,” Davenport wrote the county Board of Supervisors. He says his office needs more prosecutors to watch the flood of visual information that has washed over Davenport’s office.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in a four- month period starting in August, an average of 1,064.5 videos contained 621.4 hours of footage. It also takes time to review each video and redact victim and witness information from them.
So overwhelmed is the Commonwealth Attorney’s office that Davenport has gone to a kind of triage to work through the films. Videos depicting small-time misdemeanors aren’t vetted, but DUIs, misdemeanor sexual assaults, animal cruelty and sex offender registry violation cases will be reviewed.
Elected officials have had mixed reactions to the predicament. State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) wants an amendment requiring adding one entry-level commonwealth’s attorney for every 50 body cameras deployed by policed.
State Sen. Amanda Chase, a Republican from Chesterfield, says the county should have thought of providing extra money to watch the police tapes when it decided to buy body cameras.
Mind you, Chesterfield has about 330,000 people and is a fairly affluent county serving as a major suburb of Richmond. If it can’t figure out how to afford having officials watch thousands of video watching body camera imagery, then how could a much poorer, more rural area do it?