Program is expected to start before fall 2018
By Abigail Adcox, Staff Writer
The Mason Police Department recently acquired 28 body cameras that will soon be worn by patrol officers on all shifts. According to Chief of Police Carl Rowan, they hope to have the cameras in use as early as May and and as late as summer before the 2018-2019 school year begins.
“The cameras provide two important elements: transparency and accountability,” said Rowan. “In cases where an individual might file a complaint against an officer, we can see what actually happens and we don’t have to rely on one word against another.”
The cameras will be worn by the patrol officers on their ballistic vests and can be turned on with the click of a button. Additionally, department will have extra cameras to be used for special events or to be given to criminal investigators for special cases. The cameras cost less than $1000 each. The funding for the cameras came from the department’s existing budget.
According to Rowan, the change is well timed, considering many other police departments are adopting or have already transitioned to using body cameras.
“Right now we do have dash cameras in our cars, but a lot of our interactions take place in buildings, dorms, away from the vehicle, where they will not be of use,” Rowan said.
Rowan believes using the body cameras will result in a more trustworthy department. Rowan also added that student privacy concerns will be addressed in the official policies for the cameras, which are still being written. The department will also be incorporating the Virginia state policies of how long videos may be stored for various cases.
“We are doing our best to learn from other departments that are using [the cameras] to make sure we come up with policies that serve everybody’s interest and don’t result in frivolous camera use and invasion of privacy,” Rowan said.
One concern that the department is working with Information Technology Services to fix is how to store the data from the cameras. Once these storage issues have been resolved and the policies written, students may begin seeing the body cameras by next fall.
“I think it will be a good program,” said Rowan. “I think the officers are enthusiastic about it. We’re trying to lean into technology, we’re not afraid of it. We want the university community to feel comfortable with the knowledge that if there are complaints they will be dealt with seriously. We’re willing to do everything possible to be transparent and accountable to the people we serve.”
Photo by Grant Smith