It happened later than anticipated, but the Leesburg Police Department will soon roll out an in-car camera program.
This week, the Town Council approved a budget amendment that will fund the purchase and installation of 30 in-car cameras for the department’s fleet. It’s an initiative the department hoped would already be rolling by now, but product development issues by the town’s chosen vendor, Motorola Solutions, resulted in a significant delay. The council first approved the program in the fiscal year 2017 budget.
Now, Motorola has a new in-car camera product, WatchGuard,which includes total integration capabilities for hardware and software; crime analysis tools; and digital evidence management, among other features.
Tuesday’s council action amends the fiscal year 2020 budget to reflect a supplemental appropriation of $85,822 for the program implementation, camera purchase, and first-year maintenance. Those funds are currently in the town’s Unassigned Fund Balance, and come via a refund from Motorola for the previous cameras that were never received by the town. The council also authorized a $25,000 adjustment to the General Fund budget to account for the man hours the Department of Public Works and Capital Projects will expend in installing the cameras. According to department director Renee LaFollette, public works staff members will have to work on camera installation on extended hours, to allow for regular maintenance work to continue without delay during daytime hours. The cameras will outfit all of the squad cars assigned to patrol operations, and the department will begin implementing the program in January, according to Public Information Officer Michael Drogin.
In-car camera programs have grown in popularity in public safety agencies nationwide in recent years, following several high-profile instances of confrontations, sometimes fatal, between police officers and the general public. The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing in 2015 recommended that departments leverage technology to increase transparency and enhance trust and accountability from the public in light of these incidents. Both in-car and body cameras worn by officers have become some of the major initiatives rolled out by departments to accomplish that goal. The Leesburg Police Department began its body-worn camera program in 2018, and 43 units are currently deployed, according to a staff report. All patrol officers are equipped with a body camera, and Drogin said the program has “proven to be valuable evidence in cases of officer complaints or courtroom testimony,” in addition to a primary goal of increasing transparency.