Virginia school administrators to start wearing body cameras

HALIFAX COUNTY (WSLS10) – Body cameras have become commonplace among law enforcement, but, in a couple of weeks they will be on principals and assistant principals at Halifax County High School and middle school.

“I think it does improve safety within the building; the ability to record what may happen,” said Halifax County High School Principal Michael Lewis, who will be wearing a body camera.

The cameras are an extension of the school’s 75 surveillance cameras and Lewis said when students sign the consent form at the beginning of each year to be on surveillance video, that form will now also double as consent to be recorded by the body cameras.

The cameras will be worn all the time, but they will only be recording as necessary. This includes inside classrooms, where there are currently no surveillance cameras.

“If there was something going on in there that needed to be recorded,” Lewis said, “a fight, an altercation, I think it should be recorded.”

5ED4A67761034655A8621FB198388D2EThe South Boston Police Department recently upgraded to newer body cameras and donated their old ones to the school. On Monday, the Halifax County School Board unanimously approved using the cameras.

“We enjoy the knowledge that [the schools] have [the cameras],” said South Boston Police Department Lt. Dennis Barker. “They can use them at a moment’s notice. It’s easier interaction.”

Lewis also alluded to the ease of interaction, saying that the cameras can potentially make dealing with students less stressful.

“It still allows us to have our hands available,” Lewis pointed out. “Sometimes when you’re in conversation and you want to talk to the child, that can be relieving to them not to have a cell phone or a larger device.”

The video from the cameras will be stored on a computer in the office and will likely be kept on file for an entire school year.

Lewis admits that theoretically the video could be altered, but he said he has confidence that will not happen.

The school will spend the next couple of weeks ironing out the protocol for using the cameras and will likely start using them on April 4 when students return from spring break.

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