Chesterfield Commonwealth’s Attorney Scott Miles said that the county is making some progress in reviewing police officers’ body camera video footage. That comes in spite of the county not receiving additional funding from the state for such in last or this year’s budgets.
As part of the current budget for Fiscal Year 2019-2020, Miles notes that the county funded two additional paralegal positions and converted a part-time attorney position to full-time. The latter position was filled when the commonwealth attorney’s office hired Gabriela Phillingane, who started part-time Jan. 28 and was moved to full-time in April following funding approval from the Chesterfield Board of Supervisors. Phillingane previously worked in the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office in Florida.
Miles said that one of the new paralegals helped in the successful recent prosecution of Joshua Federico. In that case, a jury found the 45-year-old Matoaca resident guilty of seven felonies, including first-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated malicious wounding, in the shooting death of Lawrence J. Howell, 38, and injury of Federico’s pregnant wife, Wendy M. Federico, 64. She was paralyzed from the waist down but later gave birth to the child.
The state General Assembly approved a 20-percent increase in funding related to body camera reviews ($1.4 million). Those funds were disseminated through the state Compensation Board, but Chesterfield did not get any additional funding, Miles said. The county has been on the short end of receiving funding for commonwealth’s attorneys for over a decade, according to state Sen. Amanda Chase.
Miles said the state only funds 18 1/2 of the 31 commonwealth’s attorneys in Chesterfield. The state underfunds the salaries of commonwealth’s attorneys in other localities and overfunds others, supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle has said, noting that some localities are fully funded. Chesterfield has eight attorney positions allotted by the Compensation Board that are unfunded, and five allotted-but-unfunded support staff positions.
Miles said he negotiated with the county so that it wouldn’t have to fund one attorney for every 75 body cameras that are in use, which was stipulated in state law last year. That law also allows each locality to come to a separate agreement with its commonwealth’s attorney. Chesterfield would have been required to fund 4.89 attorneys for 367 active cameras, Miles said. The county funded 3.5 attorneys, including three in FY ’19 and the conversion of a part-time to full-time attorney in this year’s budget.
“Instead of insisting on the last attorney, I negotiated for two full-time paralegals,” Miles said.
“There isn’t any substitute for a prosecuting attorney reviewing camera footage in preparation for trial,” Miles said last week. “So the attorney staffing relative to available information/data is likely to continue to be an issue.”
He noted that the Chesterfield Police Department has provided a part-time employee – retired police officer Edward Nichols – to help process body camera footage. “He’s been a great help,” Miles said.
Nichols’ knowledge of the Axon/Evidence.com platform used for the body worn camera and police procedure relative to it has made him very valuable to the office, Miles said. “He’s drastically reducing the hours that our staff spends hunting down and disseminating video. We’re grateful to [Police Chief Jeffrey] Katz for sending Ed to us as an in-house resource.”