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Lynchburg police to have body cameras in 2017

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LYNCHBURG (WSLS 10) - The Lynchburg Police Department is working to equip all of its officers with body cameras, thanks to a more than $200,000 grant from the Department of Justice.

It's something that the Department hopes will improve transparency and help make investigations easier.

Easier, says Police Captain Ryan Ziudena, by reducing the amount of time it will take officers to gather evidence.

"It makes our investigations into complaints and allegations of misconduct much more efficient to be able to view a video, versus having to potentially interview countless witnesses," said Ziudena.

Chris Moore, who lives in Lynchburg, says after seeing the limited amount of video evidence available in other shootings around the country, he's glad his city is moving forward.

"Cameras do not invoke any emotion, they record events. So it's easier for us to be able to look at something subjectively when we can sit there and say okay, this is what really happened," said Moore.

A tiny camera, pinned on the officer's shirt or glasses, shoots HD video that will be preserved on a cloud-based server.

Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Doucette says the new evidence will be helpful in prosecuting crimes, but will require more manpower to review.

He says the city is already helping his office out.

"We've got two additional positions in our office as a result solely of body worn cameras, and so we think we will be ready to hit the ground running as soon as they're deployed," said Doucette.

In a public meeting Wednesday night, police also addressed occasions where they can't release video, such as an ongoing investigation, where doing so might influence any potential jury members.

"We want to make sure that the accused person has the right to a fair trial and that we don't jeopardize that in any way," said Ziudena.

Ziudena says each officer will undergo a six hour training course before being equipped with a camera, and will use them whenever interacting with the public during a potential crime.

He says the goal is simply to be able to best tell the truth of what happened from every perspective.

"We've been recorded for many years by cell phone cameras, and now it's an opportunity for us to record ourselves and obviously tell our side of the story, said Ziudena.

The goal of the Lynchburg Police Department is to have every officer to have completed the training course and wearing a body camera by September of 2017.