The hullabaloo over funding review of police body cameras may be coming to an end after Chesterfield County supervisors last week voted unanimously to spend $125,000 to hire three additional commonwealth’s attorneys.
The county’s previous commonwealth’s attorney, Billy Davenport, clashed with supervisors earlier this year over the issue and ended his office’s prosecution of most misdemeanors as of May 1.
But Davenport is no longer in the picture, having resigned July 1. Interim Commonwealth’s Attorney Ken Nickels negotiated with county staff and has agreed to resume most misdemeanor prosecutions effective Aug. 1 even though the new positions likely won’t be filled by then.
Additional funding for the hires will come from the state Compensation Board to the tune of $65,000, which county budget director Meghan Coates said were previously unappropriated by the county. “The $65,000 materialized over time,” deputy county administrator Matt Harris said at the supervisors’ July 25 meeting. The $125,000 came out of the Fiscal 2018-2019 budget, Coates wrote in the staff report.
Harris called the appropriation “a major milestone, but not the end of the road, not the last chapter on this issue.”
“It’s about how to best serve the public. Sometimes it takes some conflicts to determine how to get there,” supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle said.
Supervisor Chris Winslow asked the county’s state delegates and senators to help fund the county’s commonwealth’s attorneys and rectify a funding imbalance. The state compensation board has been only funding 18 1/2 of the 28 commonwealth’s attorneys in Chesterfield.
Davenport has said the county needs 27 attorneys just to prosecute felonies, which doesn’t include misdemeanors and reviewing body cameras. Review of body camera footage came to the forefront earlier this year after the county purchased body cameras for its police officers last year.
The current state budget created a committee that is supposed to study the issue of funding commonwealth’s attorneys for reviewing body camera footage from law enforcement officials. The committee is tasked with making a recommendation to the state House Appropriations and Senate Finance committee chairs by Dec. 1.