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County officials seek $420K for Sheriff’s Office body camera program

In an effort to be on par with what the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office calls industry standard, county officials are asking the Board of Supervisors for more than $420,000 for a body-worn camera program as part of fiscal 2018 budget negotiations.

Sheriff Mike Chapman (R) told the Board of Supervisors earlier this month that in the last five years his office had received just one excessive force complaint issue, but he described the need to expand the body camera program as a “don’t know when you need it until you need it” type of request.

LCSO launched a body camera pilot program in September 2015, starting off with 42 cameras through a nearly $30,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The initial trove of cameras went to patrol, traffic and correctional deputies.

Now, over the next three fiscal years, the Sheriff’s Office says it wants to have 350 body cameras by 2019. Over the next year, the office is eyeing another 77 cameras, which would bring its total cache to 119.

“All it takes is that one questionable incident that you don’t really have the actual perspective of what happened, and then you’re back and forth on it,” Chapman told supervisors. “I would say it certainly is the best practice as far as what law enforcement, police departments and sheriff’s offices are doing nationwide.”

Following nationwide protests sparked by the 2014 fatal shooting of an unarmed African American teenager, Michael Brown, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, the Obama administration pushed for expanding the use of body cameras at police departments around the country.

Supporters of cameras believe it's a way to help bridge mistrust between law enforcement and the public.

Over the last three years, police departments across the county have been expanding body camera programs with the help of $23.2 million in grants from the Obama administration’s Department of Justice.

In Arlington County, the police and sheriff’s offices conducted a body camera pilot program in 2016 and are now reviewing the information collected. Fairfax County has not yet started to test body cameras, but is researching the issue.

How much will it really cost?

Amid the ongoing effort to expand the body camera program, Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet said he included in his proposed $2.5 billion budget a $142,800 critical needs request for video data storage contract services, which would be needed if the sheriff’s office gets the 77 new cameras.

LCSO originally requested for the expansion of the body camera pilot program using fiscal 2016 fund balance. However, the Board of Supervisors did not approve that request.
The sheriff’s office told supervisors the body cameras themselves were not the highest expense, but rather the costs associated with data storage and maintenance were.

For LCSO's next round of cameras, including the 77 body devices it wants this year, the office anticipates it will need $1,200 annually per device for storage costs, maintenance and replacement of the cameras. If the sheriff’s office gets 77 cameras, it will need $92,400 for one year’s worth of devices. If the program is expanded to 350 cameras by 2019 -- the number would swell to about $420,000 in annual storage and operating costs.

LCSO said it was also awarded two grants totaling $58,071 for a three-year period, which will allow them to purchase more cameras.

Related expenses

In a county with a relatively low crime rate, some supervisors asked why the body cameras were needed. Sheriff Chapman himself noted a recent University of Virginia survey that found 98 percent of Loudoun residents said they felt safe in the county.

Thus far, supervisors have made a preliminary budget enhancement of $83,803 for an LCSO video systems coordinator. Duties for the position include processing, reviewing and copying video footage for Freedom of Information Act requests, subpoenas, court testimony, training and internal investigations from the office’s 260 in-car camera systems and current 42 body worn cameras.

LCSO says that from 2015 to 2016 its video copy requests have increased by about 130 percent, from 1,211 requests in fiscal 2015 to 2,776 in fiscal 2016.

In addition to the sheriff’s office’s data storage need, the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney is asking for $194,660 in additional staff support if the body worn camera program is expanded to 119 new devices.

Currently, when the commonwealth’s attorney’s office asks LCSO for video evidence for a case, the sheriff’s office is tasked with reproducing the video, putting it on a DVD and handing it over to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office to review.

Commonwealth’s Attorney James Plowman noted the process of putting the footage on a DVD is tedious. Plowman said that other jurisdictions have managed to share video footage though a web based system.

“If we don’t shift to a web based system, the magnitude of work is astronomically greater,” Plowman said.

The overall body camera request is still pending approval from the Board of Supervisors. After the board heard feedback from the commonwealth’s attorney and sheriff’s offices, Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles) said “clearly we need to do some work on this entire issue.”


Comments


we need to take FAIRFAX COUNTY and MONTGOMERY COUNTY lead since they are the 2 most desirable places in DC area.

Brian Allman mentioned FFX county does not have them , so Loudon should not have them either.

The only way to justify is if the 2 top counties in the area have them (of which Loudon is not one of them).

$41K for officer salary seems a bit low. But if spouse is also working for LCSO that is 82K between both which will get you by with not much left in savings


The Loudoun Times Mirror recently posted the 16th Top Paid Public Salaries. Sheriff Chapman was the 4th highest paid earning $11,809.00 more than Loudoun County chief law enforcement officer, Commonwealth Attorney Plowman! Surely, the top law enforcement officer in this County, by Virginia statue, should earn the same as the Sheriff’s? If Loudoun County had a police department, the chief of police certainly would not earn what Sheriff Chapman earns. Add his federal retirement, Sheriff Chapman earns over $300,000.00 a year while young deputies qualify for food stamps! Saving $500,000 dollars from body cameras and cutting Sheriff Chapman’s salary, and well as his command staff 10 percent which would equal what Commonwealth Attorney Plowman earns would certainly go a long way to giving the young deputies a needed pay raise for they can’t live in Loudoun County on $2,000.00 a month take home pay! Sheriff Chapman, in 5 years as Sheriff has done nothing to raise the starting pay for young deputies and he won’t either! There is only so much money to go around. Let’s give it to our most important resources—our young deputies!

Brian Allman
Democratic Nominee for Sheriff of Loudoun County- 2015


Although Allman would have been a disaster as the Sheriff; and Chapman is not much better, he is right about pay, but wrong about cameras.  Cameras are proven to be a good law enforcement tool.  They protect the public and the police. 


I think body cameras are a great idea and will help officers prove their cases.  Too many nuts out there blaming officers for things that never happened.


Mr. Allman, upon completion of the academy, the salary is at least $44,000 in addition to overtime. While it is a risky profession and maybe still not enough, that is not terrible money for a job that requires only a high school diploma. If you have a degree in criminal justice or other military or law enforcement experience, they do a salary worksheet and the starting pay will be more than that. Also, if you were educated while running for Sheriff, you would know (and you probably do know) that the County Of Loudoun only supplements the Sheriff’s state provided salary up to the $200,000 because Virginia law requires the Sheriff to make more than the highest paid deputy. If they did not do this, then the salary scale all the way down would have to be adjusted and hurt the entry level salary in the process. Time to stop running the constant campaign for Sheriff or at least use honest numbers and all the facts when making a point.


For the protection of both law enforcement and citizens, body cameras are absolutely necessary in this current environment.  I’d rubber stamp this and expedite the spending to equip the LCSO with cameras ASAP.


Body cameras in this day and age are a must for police officers.  The only thing I would say is that they, the officers are not able to turn them on and off as they desire.  All police should have them, and at end of each shift they need to be turned in and uploaded or whatever they do and filed. 


This is an outrageous expense to the taxpayers of Loudoun. There is certainly no need for body cameras. The Fairfax County Police do not use them and their department is almost three times bigger than the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office. Commonwealth Attorney Plowman is also correct about the additional expense.

The starting pay for a Loudoun deputy is $41,000.00 a year and that is the lowest starting pay in Northern Virginia. Sheriff Chapman now earns $200,000.00 a year. The time has come to take the body camera money and give the young deputies a pay raise. Who can live on $41,000.00 in 2017?

If I would have been elected Sheriff in 2015 I would never be discussing body cameras today! I would be talking about giving young deputies a pay raise and how to cut not only my $200,000 salary but the salaries of my command staff so that young deputies will no longer qualify for food stamps!

Brian Allman
Democratic Nominee for Sheriff of Loudoun County-2015


Agree with CousinSam.  Take some of the $M’s in excess of the LCPS budget and give it to the LCSO.


Cut something else from the budget don’t add the cameras on top of everything else the sheriff gets.


This should absolutely be funded.  Cameras are proven to cut down on citizen complaints and they protect (good) officers as much as the public. We already have cameras in the cars.  The same reasoning extends to the time officers are out of the vehicles.

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