Montgomery County Sheriff's Department getting rid of body cameras

The department says the cameras didn't work properly after years of trying

By Rob Manch - Reporter

MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Va. - While many police departments have praised body cameras for providing more evidence and transparency, one department in our area is getting rid of them. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Department said it's spent years trying to make the cameras work properly. Now, they're not only deactivating the devices, but officials say they may try to get their money back from the company L3 Mobile Vision Inc.

Back in 2014, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department celebrated 121 new body cameras for deputies. It was an answer to violence and a growing mistrust for police across the country.

"We really started looking at body cameras right after Ferguson when there was a national outcry for law enforcement to have body cameras," Capt. Edward Hertling said.

Hertling said it wasn't long before those cameras were causing problems.

"It would assign the raw body camera to the wrong deputy. Well deputies can only see their own videos, and so they couldn't find some of their videos, because it would be assigned to the wrong deputy," Hertling said.

But the department stuck with the program until the camera began interfering with other equipment.

"About a year down the road, we ended up having problems where it started interfering with the in-car camera videos, which had been working just fine up to that point," Hertling said.

Another problem that Montgomery County deputies were having with the physical device was that, when they put their seat belt on, it would brush up against the camera, which could potentially turn it from the off position to on, creating hours of irrelevant video. Even with all those problems, Hertling said ditching the cameras was still a tough decision because of how much the Sheriff's Office spent.

"It's up to the board and the county attorney to decide whether they want to pursue L3 to try to recoup that $33,000," Hertling said.

10 News reached out to L3 about the issue, but didn't hear back. Meanwhile, Hertling said the department is moving on, because it doesn't want to go without the technology for long.

"It's definitely a concern, so we're moving as quickly as we can to try and find a new vendor, find one that's going to meet our needs and is going to be able to live on what they say," Hertling said.

Until then, Hertling said the department will rely on the video from cameras in the car, and audio from a microphone in the officer's uniform.

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