Alexandria Police Chief Discusses Data Transparency

Alexandria Police Chief Discusses Data Transparency

Cost delays progress on body cameras.

Want to know what the Alexandria police are up to? The Alexandria Police Department's 21st Century Plan, which is in the process of being implemented, includes a section on data transparency, meaning that all data on police traffic stops, use of force, crime data collection and community engagement will be open to the public. The only recommendation that isn't being addressed at the moment is police body cameras.

Chief Michael Brown, who spoke at a community forum April 6 hosted by the Alexandria NAACP, Grassroots Alexandria and Tenants and Workers United in Del Ray, says he is open to the idea of body cameras for his officers, but at the moment it is a staffing and budget issue.

"In order to get the actual video someone has to sit there, surf through 11-and-a-half hours of footage, find the footage, redact it to the extent that the personal identities of private citizens are protected and that takes staffing. Right now, the city couldn't afford the amount of staffing that would be required to do it," Brown said. "At some point I do believe that the costs are going to go down. Up until last year, there was only one provider of body cameras .... We may eliminate some of the staffing piece because technology is starting to catch up. But we have left that as an open issue and we're willing to revisit it."

Ingris Moran, the lead organizer with Tenants and Workers United, has been working on police data transparency for the last three years.

"We know data transparency is something can be improved," Moran said. "We don't know what’s happening in our community, the breakdown of officer activity. We feel that having more data transparency lets us know."

According to the 21st Century Policing report, APD introduced its new records management system technology last year, allowing for a quicker turnaround on paperwork for officers. Their only self-realized hiccup is the issue of no body cameras.

"This progress has enabled APD to identify opportunities to improve its data collection efforts to assist in improving its understanding of officer activities and the nature of crime within the city," according to the report. "There was only one 21st Century Policing recommendation which is not being addressed by APD at this time. It involves APD officers wearing body worn cameras. APD is not opposed to the use of such cameras. However, a costing analysis has indicated it would cost the department in excess of $1 million a year to operate a body worn camera program."