Richmond Public Schools may put body cameras on safety officers

Posted at 5:07 PM, Sep 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-24 06:52:32-04

RICHMOND, Va. --  Richmond Public Schools (RPS)  is considering putting body cameras on its 54 school safety officers, CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George learned Tuesday.

The move would be first for any school system in Virginia, according to Assistant Superintendent Thomas Krantz.

"We want to make sure we know all the facts when incidents take place," said Krantz, speaking to potential benefits of the program.

Krantz said he will make initial decisions regarding implementing the program around January of 2015.

CBS 6 asked if Krantz is concerned to do something that Richmond Police haven't even done yet.

"I always have a concern  when I'm introducing something new inside of a school," Krantz said.

The cost of the program is estimated to be anywhere between $200 - $300 per camera, according to RPS security officials. It is estimated that thousands of dollars are needed to properly fund data storage.

RPS Chief Safety Officer Tim Mallory said the move - if acted upon - would greatly reduce the number of accusations his officers face, especially in instances when it is one officer's word against the word of a student.

"Not only is it going to have video, it also has audio," Mallory added.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia has already raised a red flag.

"I am worried," Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of ACLU Virginia, said.

Gastañaga said that while her organization supports cameras in some settings,  like on police officers if strict policies are adhered to, schools present different problems.

ACLU Virginia is concerned about when video will be recorded and who will have access to the data.

"I want to look very carefully at whatever policies are going to be in place," Gastañaga said.

Parents however appear supportive.

"Anything that can help the kids, if they're going to protect the kids from fighting, then that's a good thing," Deborah Williams, a Richmond grandmother with nine grandkids in RPS schools said.

Richmond School Board Member Kim Gray said she would consider a pilot program of the cameras at MLK Middle, Armstrong High, and Richmond's Alternative School.