Lawsuits mitigated through VMLIP body camera initiative

Picture this – your police officer stops a car for speeding and reckless driving. The driver refuses to sign a summons. The driver becomes argumentative and exits the vehicle with a towel draped over their arm.  The driver attempts to assault another officer.

Once arrested and taken before the magistrate, the driver continues to be uncooperative and claims the handcuffs were put on so tightly they caused physical harm. The driver claims they were never informed they would be placed under arrest for not signing the summons.

Would your dashboard camera provide sufficient evidence to prove your officers’ side of the story?

In the example above, which took place in Pearisburg, Virginia, all of the interactions were caught on camera from the police officer’s perspective using a Veho Muvi body camera supplied to the police department by VML Insurance Programs (VMLIP.)  The camera also showed that you could fit a finger between the drivers’ wrists and the handcuffs, demonstrating that they were not too tight.

“Once they were informed that the officer was wearing a video camera and that everything had been recorded, they stopped,” says Pearisburg Police Chief Jackie Martin. “We feel very confident about how this will turn out if a suit is filed – this is just the latest event where our body cameras have saved the day.”

In October, 2011, VMLIP began distributing body cameras to member police departments, totaling 1,400 units distributed to 115 law enforcement agencies.  Since that time at least three potential lawsuits, that VMLIP has been made aware of, have not been pursued due to the use of these cameras proving the allegations were unfounded.

Sergeant Hicks with the Town of Ashland wears a VEHO MUVI camera

“Body cameras are increasingly being utilized by police departments to clear allegations of police misconduct,” said Steve Craig, managing director of VMLIP.  “Allegations have to be investigated and defended – at a substantial cost – even when they are unfounded.”

“These cameras are a tool to help mitigate these costs by demonstrating the officer acted appropriately,” said Steve.

Body cameras for officers are now being touted as the next wave in policing. 

“We have four in-car cameras,” said Chief Martin, “but body cameras are much more valuable because if you walk away from the car you have the audio, but not the video.” 

In addition to liability mitigation, the Town of Pearisburg is utilizing the cameras in other police work, such as capturing evidence and the condition of suspects when arrests or investigations take place.

“When we have DUI stops, the video shows the times the tests are administered and the person’s actions – for example if they are combative, etc.,” said Chief Martin.  “Our officers can testify to this but with the video they can show the judge, and it’s proven to be much more valuable.”

The Town of Pearisburg isn’t the only one showing appreciation for the cameras:

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the VML for the body worn cameras that were given to our department. We are currently using these cameras and we are very pleased with their quality and ease of use. Again we thank you and hope you continue these programs in the future.” – Sergeant Danny French, Wise Police Department

“We received a use of force complaint, however after reviewing the officers camera footage the chief unfounded the complaint and sent the complainant a letter stating as such.  We have not been contacted by them since.  I believe the camera helped us in that case.  We have also been able to successfully use the camera in prosecution of DUI’s and other offenses.” – Captain Randy Stanley, Coeburn Police Department

The cameras were provided through VMLIP’s Law Enforcement Services, available to members with Law Enforcement Liability Coverage.  Services are provided through a former police officer, Thomas Bullock, and include:

  • Monitoring of current issues, court decisions, and changes in best practices;
  • Technical assistance for law enforcement;
  • Consulting to assist in the development and maintenance of policies and procedures, including access to sample procedures and a policy audit;
  • Access to Web-based and in-person training specific to the needs of law enforcement;
  • Liability training;
  • In-class driver/police pursuit training;
  • Loss and injury analysis;
  • Access to the Law Enforcement Matters newsletter;
  • Assistance with developing and implementing wellness and fit-for-duty programs; and more.

Bullock has helped the Town of Pearisburg on a number of issues, including updating their pursuit policies, with TASER training, and more. 

“I know a lot of smaller law enforcement agencies couldn’t necessarily afford technology like this,” said Chief Martin.  “If VMLIP can help small agencies like ours it’s a tremendous access.  I think every officer on the street should have a body camera for their protection.”

The Veho Muvi cameras can be worn by officers on their uniforms for hands-free recording.  The devices have the ability to be voice-activated and record digital video and sound with a date and time stamp.  They can be used to record stops and interviews – documenting officer interactions. 

“This is a piece of equipment I will never put my officers on the street without.”

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Slideshow of regional camera distribution events

VMLIP members receiving body cameras include:

  • Abingdon, Town of
  • Amherst, Town of
  • Ashland, Town of
  • Bedford, City of
  • Blacksburg, Town of
  • Blackstone, Town of
  • Bloxom, Town of
  • Boydton, Town of
  • Boykins, Town of
  • Bridgewater, Town of
  • Bristol, City of
  • Buena Vista City of
  • Burkeville, Town of
  • Cape Charles
  • Cedar Bluff, Town of
  • Charlottesville, City of
  • Chase City, Town of
  • Chatham, Town of
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel District
  • Chilhowie, Town of
  • Chincoteague, Town of
  • Clarksville, Town of
  • Clifton Forge, Town of
  • Clintwood, Town of
  • Coeburn, Town of
  • Colonial Beach, Town of
  • Colonial Heights, City of
  • Covington, City of
  • Crewe, Town of
  • Culpeper, Town of
  • Damascus, Town of
  • Danville, City of
  • Dayton, Town of
  • Drakes Branch, Town of
  • Eastville, Town of
  • Edinburg, Town of
  • Emporia, City of
  • Exmore, Town of
  • Fairfax, City of
  • Farmville, Town of
  • Fredericksburg, City of
  • Front Royal, Town of
  • Galax, Town of
  • Gate City, Town of
  • Glasgow, Town of
  • Glen Lyn, Town of
  • Gordonsville, Town of
  • Gretna, Town Of
  • Grottoes, Town of
  • Grundy, Town of
  • Halifax, Town of
  • Hallwood, Town of
  • Harrisonburg, City of
  • Haysi, Town of
  • Herndon, Town of
  • Hillsville, Town of
  • Honaker, Town of
  • Hopewell, City of
  • Hurt, Town of
  • Kenbridge, Town of
  • Kilmarnock, Town of
  • Lawrenceville, Town of
  • Lebanon, Town of
  • Leesburg, Town of
  • Lexington, City of
  • Louisa, Town of
  • Luray, Town of
  • Manassas Park, City of
  • Manassas, City of
  • Marion, Town of
  • Martinsville, City of
  • Middleburg, Town of
  • Middletown, Town of
  • Mount Jackson, Town of
  • Narrows, Town of
  • Norton, City of
  • Occoquan, Town of
  • Onley, Town of
  • Parksley, Town of
  • Pearisburg, Town of
  • Pembroke, Town of
  • Pennington Gap, Town of
  • Poquoson, City of
  • Purcellville, Town of
  • Quantico, Town of
  • Radford, City of
  • Remington, Town of
  • Rich Creek, Town of
  • Richlands, Town of
  • Rocky Mount, Town of
  • Rural Retreat, Town of
  • Saltville, Town of
  • Scottsville, Town of
  • Shenandoah, Town of
  • Smithfield, Town of
  • South Boston, Town of
  • St. Paul, Town of
  • Stanley, Town of
  • Staunton, City of
  • Stephen City Town of
  • Strasburg, Town of
  • Suffolk, City of
  • Victoria, Town of
  • Vinton, Town of
  • Warrenton, Town of
  • Warsaw, Town of
  • Waynesboro, City of
  • Weber City, Town of
  • West Point, Town of
  • White Stone, Town of
  • Williamsburg, City of
  • Windsor, Town of
  • Wise, Town of
  • Woodstock, Town of

VMLIP offers more than just coverage.  We are partners in risk management. How does your insurer stack up?  Having all lines of coverage with VMLIP ensures that your organization is receiving comprehensive coverage and a wide variety of value-added services tailored to Virginia’s local governmental entities.  Call for a quote today: (800) 963-6800.  For more information on VMLIP visit: www.vmlins.org or follow us on Facebook.

** VMLIP blog postings are offered for VMLIP members to utilize in strengthening their risk management efforts.  See copyright information for clarification on sharing this information.

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About VML Insurance Programs

Director of Communications, VML Insurance Programs
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