Waynesboro Commonwealth's Attorney Weighs In on Cost of Police Body Cameras
WAYNESBORO, Va. (WVIR) - The cost of police body cameras across central Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley are putting a burden on prosecutors’ offices. This comes on the heels of an NBC29 investigation that revealed the escalating costs police and sheriff's offices are paying for the technology.
Waynesboro Commonwealth’s Attorney David Ledbetter contacted NBC29 not long after that report aired. He wants the public to know this isn't just costing officers, its having a "major impact" on his office.
In 2015, the Waynesboro Police Department began using body cameras. Now, Ledbetter says his office has to review between approximately 3,500 hours of footage each year. That requires almost two, full-time assistant commonwealth's attorneys. Ledbetter has three in his office, but says even the most basic cases now take up more time because videos are involved.
"A video for a small misdemeanor that may use to take 10 or 15 minutes to prepare by reading a page and a half, two page report, may now take two or three hours of just reviewing the body-worn camera footage for the various officers on the scene," the city’s top prosecutor said.
The commonwealth is also responsible for redacting medical or personal information. Ledbetter says for every minute of video produced, it takes two to four minutes to do the appropriate redactions.
"We're having to take time to review all of that footage and then be able to disclose it," he said.
The Waynesboro Commonwealth's Attorney’s Office is part of a group working on solutions to these issues with the General Assembly.
"The downside is to glean those critical pieces, those diamonds in the rough of information you have to watch hundreds and thousands of hours of video that's really not all that relevant," said Ledbetter.
The group issued a report last December about the impacts the program has on prosecutors. One recommendation that is moving forward is that localities will fund an extra assistant commonwealth attorney position for every 72 cameras. That will go into effect on July 1.
Ledbetter says the cameras are a great tool and hopes work in Richmond can bring about change.