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Augusta County Commonwealth’s Attorney on issue of body cameras for sheriff’s deputies

Augusta County Sheriff's Office in Verona.
Augusta County Sheriff's Office in Verona.(WVIR)
Published: May. 19, 2021 at 6:29 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - An armed stand-off in Augusta County Tuesday and an officer-involved shooting on Friday has raised some questions surrounding the need for body cameras for sheriff’s deputies.

While prosecutors say having body cam footage to look back on could be helpful in some situations, it may not be a necessary expense for Augusta County.

The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office is not currently equipped with body cameras, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Tim Martin said that does not mean there is no way to get an accurate description of an event.

“We can’t ever know what happened at an incident without body cam footage... That’s just not true. We can and should trust our men and women in law enforcement to tell us what happened,” Martin said.

He said he has total trust in the sheriff’s office and the surrounding partner agencies that they are being truthful and have been trained well to have the ability to perceive in the moment.

Martin noted that body cameras do not always catch relevant things that the people on the scene do and added the courts have had success over the years in relying on testimonies.

“So, I have not seen the need for cameras on deputies 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to obtain convictions in cases,” Martin said.

Equipping deputies with cameras would mean an increase in taxes to cover the costs, not just of the camera themselves but also new personnel and the hours it takes to review footage.

“Prosecutors are required to view all of the body camera footage before court,” Martin explained. “And there is usually more than one officer there, so you have to watch everybody’s footage, and it takes hours and hours and hours to do.”

He did add that there are benefits to having body cameras.

“Folks who come into contact with deputies claim things happened in that interaction that flat out did not happen,” Martin said. “When you have body cameras or body-worn camera footage, then you can see pretty clearly that the person has invented that.”

But he said that does not happen often in Augusta County.

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