Winchester officers, citizens want Police Department to wear body cameras

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The Winchester Police Department recently renewed a request to the city’s manger for body camera funding.

The Winchester chief of police said his request to get funding for body cameras has nothing to do with D’londre Minifield’s recent death – a man who allegedly committed suicide while being chase by city police – because the original request was made in 2014.

Although the Virginia State Police are conducting Minifield’s death investigation, Police Chief Kevin Sanzenbacher said he agrees that now is the time for body cameras.

“Citizens are asking for officers to have body cameras. I know our officers are asking to be able to wear body cameras, so I think it’s time to move forward with that innovation,” Sanzenbacher said.

The funding would be allocated in fiscal year 2017’s budget, and each camera would cost about $250, in addition to the cost of batteries, chargers, training and video storage.

Sanzenbacher said he hopes that there would be enough money to get one camera for almost every officer employed by the Winchester Police Department.

Some who support the the idea said the cameras would eliminate inconsistency between witness and officer testimony.

“There’s too many crimes happening, too many kids getting killed, and no one knows the true story,” said Jessica Barnett, who believes the cameras would hold both law enforcement and criminals accountable.

“[The cameras would] protect the officer against allegations that never happened,” added Joshua Lane, noting that altercations involving police are frequently filmed by onlookers.

In a world where cell phone video sometimes acts as testimony, Sanzenbacher said he hopes body cameras would paint a clearer picture. 

“Oftentimes, when you see video recordings of things captured on cell phones, it’s usually the last 30 seconds of the thing, and that’s when the thing has become out of hand, and they don’t capture all of the activity that lead up to the officers taking the action they have to take.”

Although, should an officer make an honest mistake, Sanzenbacher said the body cameras could become an important teacher.

“We can review the video and go back and show the officer working with the supervisor ‘Okay, this is what you did, this may be a better way of doing it in the future,’ then we can use it as a very valuable training tool as well.”

Sanzenbacher said that the cameras would be recording and worn through the entirety of an officer’s shift.

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