Sponsored Content: Strengthening Community Trust
How Virginia Beach PD Deployed Axon Technology to Increase Transparency
The Virginia Beach PD prides itself on having a strong relationship with its community. However, that relationship was tested in March 2021.
“We ended up encountering an officer-involved shooting in March of 2021,” Captain William Zelms recalled. Unfortunately, the incident was not captured on the officer’s body-worn camera, leading to a “significant public outcry.”
In the immediate aftermath of this incident, Chief Paul Neudigate realized the department needed to reexamine its policies and expand the scope of its body-worn camera program, to best serve its community and avoid “he said/she said” situations. When a similar incident occurred in 2022, the outcome was very different – thanks in part to the Axon Ecosystem.
THE POWER OF CONNECTION
In July 2021, the Virginia Beach PD implemented Axon's Officer Safety Plan department-wide. This comprehensive solution equipped all officers with cutting-edge technology including Axon Fleet 3, Axon Body 3 and Axon Signal Sidearm.
Axon Fleet 3, installed in all 216 marked patrol vehicles, offered "an additional layer of accountability and transparency," explained Chief Neudigate. Built-in ALPR technology meant each patrol vehicle now had automatic license plate scanning capabilities. Officers were now alerted to stolen vehicles, missing persons and active warrants thanks to Fleet 3.
Officers were also equipped with Axon Body 3, body-worn cameras that offer extended video recall in the event of a missed camera activation. And Signal Sidearm, integrated with duty holsters, allowed for wireless activation of Axon's cameras, minimizing the risk of missed recordings and allowing officers to focus on the situation at hand.
According to Zelms, “The transition was almost seamless.” It wasn’t hard to get buy-in from the force, who generally understood the value and security that body-worn cameras offered both the community and law enforcement officials. While finally having cameras on all officers and all vehicles was an incredible accomplishment, Zelms said that “It’s all of it being able to work together” on the Axon platform that elevated the technology to new heights.
THE ULTIMATE TEST
The Virginia Beach PD’s new training protocol and equipment were put to the test in December 2022. ALPR technology alerted an on-duty officer to a vehicle that had been reported stolen the previous month, leading the officer to confront the vehicle’s occupants. This led to an altercation in which one suspect attempted to grab a gun concealed in their waistband, while another pointed a weapon at the responding officer.
The responding officer drew his firearm, causing Signal Sidearm to activate a recording on his Axon Body 3 camera. The officer fatally shot the man pointing a gun at him and detained the other passenger. The entire incident was recorded automatically, leaving little room for doubt over how the events transpired.
“If it wasn’t for the Signal Sidearm, it’s very likely nothing would have been recorded because the officer had to act quickly given the circumstances they were presented with,” Zelms explained. “Having the technology that we currently possess allowed us to capture the event as it unfolded and demonstrate to the public how our officer’s actions were both necessary and justified.”
The successful deployment of Axon’s network and technology erased any lingering doubts about whether the improvements the Virginia Beach PD had made since the 2021 incident were worth the effort. “All of the investments that we made with Axon were done to avoid failing to record the most critical of events,” Zelms said. “Axon has been a fantastic partner.”
In a world where incidents involving law enforcement are under intense scrutiny, equipping officers with reliable technology and tools is crucial. Axon's comprehensive suite of products, backed by their commitment to innovation and continuous improvement, empowers police departments to navigate complex situations while maintaining the highest standards of safety, transparency and accountability.
THE AXON ECOSYSTEM
There is a reason Axon refers to our solutions under the umbrella term “The Axon Ecosystem.” It is because each of our solutions is designed to be best-in-class while also optimized to co-exist. The true power of Axon products is unlocked when each is used by your agency in tandem to multiply situational awareness, safety and evidence capture. Your agency deserves the best technology in each category, and you can have it all with the Axon Ecosystem.
To learn more about how the Axon Ecosystem can help your agency, visit axon.com