CHRISTIANSBURG — The town has entered into an agreement with an Arizona-based company to equip its police officers with a number of devices that include both body and new car cameras.
The five-year agreement with the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Axon Enterprise Inc. comes at a cost of $891,781 and was approved by Christiansburg Town Council on a 6-0 vote this past week.
The deal comes as law enforcement across the country has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, an issue that was reflected by the nationwide protests last year sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of several Minneapolis police officers.
Christiansburg Mayor Mike Barber addressed the camera issue.
“I think it’s been needed for a long time,” he said. “In today’s environment and with law enforcement under the scrutiny it is now … we owe it to our citizens to be able to properly record … the calls and things like that. More and more people are going to it.”
Christiansburg had tested some body cameras in the past, but never kept using them on a more long-term basis, Barber said. The Axon system promises much better reliability and is already in use by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, which gave the town additional reassurance, the mayor said.
Christiansburg police, which employs 62 sworn officers, will issue 61 body cameras, according to the agreement. The department will also equip 32 vehicles with 64 cameras—a camera will be located on the front and back of each car.
Additionally, the agreement with Axon includes the provision of new tasers, another piece Barber touted.
Axon also provides a cloud-based system for the consolidation of digital files.
The town police department has sought outside funding to help with the expense, Barber said.
The town received a $50,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services to help with the first year costs, a Christiansburg official confirmed.
In addition to Christiansburg police and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, other law enforcement entities in the region that have implemented body cameras include the Roanoke and Salem police departments and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
The Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office is considering the implementation of body cameras and is in the midst of trials with two equipment providers—the trials are being done with two deputies. The agency recently completed a trial with one provider, while the trial with the other provider is slated to start later this month.
Staff writer Alicia Petska contributed to this report.