A Call for Arlington County Police Officers to Use Body-Worn Cameras NOW

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Arlington is the only jurisdiction of size in the entire DC-region without a Body-Worn Camera (BWC) program. As leaders, we must prioritize programs that encourage public confidence in our government. Arlington Branch NAACP #7047 believes a comprehensive BWC program will do that.

George Floyd. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Breonna Taylor. Our nation's trust in law enforcement continues to deteriorate as excessive force, racism, and cruel treatment are exposed regularly. To INCREASE police accountability, END police brutality, and IMPROVE community relations, we must require BWC for all law enforcement, including Arlington County Police officers.

What is the purpose of BWCs?

· To assist with the collection of evidence;

· Enhance transparency, public trust and confidence;

· Provide the best evidence of police/public interactions;

· De-escalation of situations

According to the Arlington County Police Department website, in 2016, Twenty-five Arlington County Police Officers and Sheriff’s Deputies tested and evaluated BWC technology. Following the completion of the Body Worn Camera Program in 2016, the findings were presented to the County Board. At that time the program did not receive funding and was tabled. We must implore our elected leaders in Arlington County to prioritize appropriate funding for the BWC program. Removing programs that are non-essential, ineffective, or which disproportionately target minorities can generate funding for BWCs and support community resources. Additionally, exorbitant funding from Amazon could be immediately reallocated to fund 100% implementation of BWCs.

According to research in the Final Report of the President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, “The results of this 12-month study strongly suggest that the use of BWCs by the police can significantly reduce both officer use of force and complaints against officers. The study found that the officers wearing the cameras had 87.5 percent fewer incidents of use of force and 59 percent fewer complaints than the officers not wearing the cameras.”

Compliance and accountability should always be a top priority in law enforcement, especially as police brutality and community tensions continue to rise. Body-worn cameras serve as a tool to ensure that police actions are compliant and just. Many advocacy groups such as the NAACP and ACLU support body cameras to enhance and protect civil rights.

We also call for Arlington County to implement a Civilian Review Board of the police department with subpoena power. Civilian oversight of law enforcement is important in order to strengthen trust with the community. According to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, "This impartiality allows oversight to bring stakeholders together to work collaboratively and proactively to help make policing more effective and responsive to the community. Civilian oversight alone is not sufficient to gain legitimacy; without it, however, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the police to maintain the public’s trust."

We must implement this technology and civilian oversight to protect citizens from police brutality and enforce accountability. This is a humanitarian crisis that should be acted upon now to end racial injustice and improve equity in our criminal justice system. Our demand for compliance and accountability from law enforcement will not go unheard. 

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