(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) The Vienna Police Department plans to institute a body-worn camera program, a practice that has gone from rare to commonplace in the D.C. region just within the past half-decade.
Police will request the Vienna Town Council’s approval tonight (Monday) to use $223,732 in federal relief funds for a five-year program that would equip all 41 of its sworn officers with cameras, according to the agenda for the council’s meeting.
The department hopes to use money from the town’s $17.1 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation, half of which came last summer. The remaining $8.5 million is expected this June.
Congress passed the ARPA stimulus package in March 2021 to address the ongoing effects of the pandemic. The VPD believes body cameras would be eligible for funds as a COVID-19 public health expense, according to a request form submitted by Police Chief Jim Morris and signed by town staff.
“Although the Department currently has a successful In-Car Video program, there are situations and interactions that cannot be captured from the police vehicle,” Morris wrote. “A body worn camera program would allow for officers to better capture and preserve evidence as well as provide a level of protection and oversight for the officers and the community.”
If the funding is approved by the town council, the VPD would enter a five-year contract with the law enforcement technology provider Axon Enterprises.
In a quote issued on Jan. 21, the company estimated that Vienna’s proposed body camera program would cost a total of $213,078, or $42,093 per year. The expenses include the 41 cameras, storage costs, and other equipment, such as camera docks and mounts.
As recently as 2016, just a handful of Northern Virginia law enforcement agencies utilized body cameras, according to a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments survey. In pursuing a program now, however, Vienna lags behind even small jurisdictions like the Town of Herndon and Fairfax City.
Fairfax County approved a program in 2019 and completed a second phase in February 2021. The county moved in 2020 to accelerate its rollout with the goal of introducing all 1,210 cameras by the end of fiscal year 2021, which came on June 30, 2021.
The Fairfax County Police Department confirmed to FFXnow that it finished implementing the third and final phase of its program in April 2021, adding 516 body-worn camera operators.
“This included our Sully, West Springfield and Fair Oaks District stations as well as Animal Protection Police Officers and our Crisis Intervention Team,” the FCPD said by email. “Our Special Weapons and Tactics team also were [issued] Body Worn Cameras in 2021.”
Local businesses trying to revive operations could soon get more help as they seek to ward off persistent challenges due to COVID-19.
Fairfax County plans to create a new program called Fairfax Thrive that would use American Rescue Plan Act money to provide technical assistance to small businesses for digital marketing, financial planning, and staff retention, among other areas.
“The majority of our small businesses continue to report negative impacts from the pandemic,” Economic Development Initiatives Director Rebecca Moudry told the Board of Supervisors’ Economic Initiatives Committee yesterday (Tuesday).
Up to $10,000 in services could be provided for each company, which would allow the program to assist 620 small businesses, according to a staff presentation at the committee meeting. The effort could use $7 million in ARPA funds that the county government received to provide COVID-19 relief.
The county has already devoted millions of dollars in relief funds to support local businesses during the pandemic.
The Fairfax Relief Initiative to Support Employers (RISE) program awarded over $52 million in grants in 2020 to over 4,800 businesses and nonprofits, and the PIVOT Business Recovery Grant Program, which launched last summer, gave over $16 million to over 1,000 businesses, focusing specifically on the hospitality and arts industries.
The Fairfax Thrive program is seeking to reach more businesses than those previous efforts, with a potentially multi-year outreach.
“We’re proposing an expansive program in terms of who’s eligible,” Moudry said.
Eligible businesses could involve sole proprietors, home-based as well as commercial enterprises, and certain nonprofits. They would need to have fewer than 50 full-time workers per location and be negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike previous programs that had limited windows to apply, the new program envisions a rolling applications process.
As the pandemic stretches toward the end of two full years, top needs for small businesses now involve finding and keeping qualified workers, obtaining financial planning assistance or additional capital, and increasing digital marketing or brand development, the county found through a survey.
“At this point, financial assistance is no longer the No. 1 need that businesses require,” Moudry said, noting that cash was the top concern a year ago.
County officials are expected to further tweak the program based on feedback during the committee. The outreach could involve providing seminars or forums to swaths of businesses, such as those looking to hire more staff.
The Board of Supervisors could approve the program this spring, possibly launching it this summer. Supervisors said they would like it to start as soon as possible.