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Officers with the Williamsburg Police force will soon be sporting body cameras after City Council approved their purchase during a meeting Thursday.
The City and the police department will allocate a total of $221,567 toward a five-year contract with Arizona-based Taser International, a company that manufactures body camera equipment, maintenance, and federally mandated CJIS secure digital storage.
“This is a critical step forward for our police department and our citizens,” said City Councilor Doug Pons. Mayor Paul Freiling added that body cameras offer an objective look at police and community interactions.
The Council had previously looked at the subject of body cameras in its Goals Initiatives and Outcomes for the 2015 and 2016 Biennial Report. On Thursday, the Council approved $60,000 for body camera training and equipment. According to Chief of Police David Sloggie, the remaining $161,567 of the funding will come from the Williamsburg Police Department’s operational budget for fiscal years 2018 through 2021.
During Thursday’s meeting, Sloggie outlined the criteria that led to the purchase of Taser International cameras following his year-long review of available products.
“There isn’t another vendor that reliably offers the combination of point of view, high definition recording [and] 12- hour battery life, which is important for us,” Sloggie said.
The police chief added that new technology has emerged even within the past year. One innovation has been the addition of automatic triggers, which will turn on all body cameras within 75 feet of a police cruiser once the vehicle’s lights are turned on, even if those body cameras aren’t already on.
“Recordings from body-worn cameras can provide officers with an invaluable tool to be used in criminal prosecution,” Sloggie said. “Traditionally they’ve protected officers and citizens from false accusations with the objective documentation of interactions between police officers and our citizens.”
Maj. Greg Riley, a spokesman for the department, said that all sworn officers and investigators, except the Chief, Deputy Chief, and the Support Service Major, will be issued Taser’s Axon-style body cameras.