Virginia Beach police officers are remembering to activate their body worn cameras more often since the department began requiring them to turn them on sooner, according to a recent audit of the program.
The department’s initial policy was that officers were supposed to turn their cameras on once they arrived at a scene. But after a March 26 incident at the Oceanfront — when an officer failed to turn his device on before shooting and killing a man — the department changed its rules. Now officers are required to activate their cameras once they announce they’re on their way to a scene.
The auditors decided to look at two different months of body cam use: one before the policy change, and one after it, Virginia Beach City Auditor Lyndon Remias told City Council members during a briefing Tuesday.
A review of January 2021 data showed officers activated the devices 78% of the time. In April 2021, the first month they were required to turn them on sooner, the rate went up to 86 percent. The following month it was 82%, which is still better than the city’s goal of 80%, Remias said.
But there were other areas where the department wasn’t consistently following policy rules, he said.
For instance, supervisors and managers are supposed to review all videos in which an officer used force to determine if it was reasonable and lawful under the circumstances. But the audit showed 7% of the use of force videos between January 2020 and January 2021 were never viewed by them.
Supervisors are also required to review at least one video a month of each officer they supervise, yet the audit found instances where they failed to do so.
The audit also found that about 20% of the time, officers didn’t assign a category to a video or used the wrong category. The category given to a video determines how long it is kept on record. Giving it the wrong category could lead to it being deleted too soon, or being kept too long, the report said.
Jane Harper, 757-222-5097, email@example.com