3-10 Digital Mobile Video Recorder System (Arbitrator)

Policy Type: Local

Responsible Office: Chief of Police, Virginia Commonwealth University Police Department

Initial Policy Approved: 3/14/2013

Current Revision Approved: 7/12/2018



It is in the department’s interest to acquire and fully utilize technology which will be an aid to officers and increase the likelihood of successful prosecution. Digital mobile video/audio recorders (Arbitrator) equipment has been demonstrated to be of value in the prosecution of traffic violations and related offenses. Its usage has been found to be an effective and valuable tool for de-escalating situations, reducing citizen complaints and civil litigation, thereby protecting officers from false allegations and deterring criminal conduct. Further, Arbitrator equipment can greatly enhance officer training through actual incident recording. Maximizing usage of this technology will assist the department with meeting goals by establishing a strong standard of accountability to the citizens who live in, work in or travel through the university. 

The purpose of this policy is to establish departmental procedures for the operation of Arbitrator equipment installed in patrol vehicles and to establish the responsibilities of all department personnel who use this equipment. It is VCUPD’s policy that officers shall use digital mobile video/audio recorder equipment for the purpose of recording an objective video and audio account of events as they occur. Arbitrator equipment shall be used only as set forth in this policy.


Accountability Statement

All employees are expected to fully comply with the guidelines and timelines set forth in this written directive. Failure to comply will result in appropriate corrective action. Responsibility rests with the division commander to ensure that any policy violations are investigated and appropriate training, counseling and/or disciplinary action is initiated.



  1. CONTINUOUS RECORDING: The vehicle Arbitrator system is always on and recording except when the vehicle has been turned off for more than an hour. However, the recordings are not saved unless a trigger event occurs.
  2. TRIGGER EVENT: An event that causes the vehicle Arbitrator to begin saving video/audio recordings. Events may include activation of the following: emergency lights/siren, vehicle collision sensor, vehicle speed exceeds 50 MPH, and manual activation of the Arbitrator The recording ends when the officer presses the Stop button.
  3. PRE-EVENT RECORDING: The vehicle Arbitrator system will retain the video recording made prior to a trigger event for 30 seconds. Audio is not recorded until the trigger event occurs.
  4. POST-EVENT RECORDING: Once a trigger event has ended, the vehicle Arbitrator system will continue to save a recording for 30 seconds.
  5. WIRELESS UPLOAD: When the patrol vehicle is within range of the wireless front and back access point antennas installed at the assigned division, the recordings stored on the vehicle Arbitrator are automatically transferred over a wireless connection to the division Arbitrator server.
  6. MANUAL UPLOAD – The transfer of a stored recording by an authorized department member who has retrieved and transported the flash-card memory from the assigned patrol vehicle to a designated computer. Flash-cards shall remain locked within the Arbitrator unit.



  1. Installation and Maintenance:
    1. Arbitrator equipment shall be installed and, when necessary, disassembled for repairs by the product vendor or the department’s authorized IT Analyst. The IT Analyst shall be notified, without delay, of any malfunctioning equipment and shall be responsible for expeditiously contacting the vendor to request service. Replacement purchases shall also be the responsibility of the IT Analyst provided the written request has received the authorization of the Business Operations Manager.
    2. Arbitrator equipment installed in a vehicle is the responsibility of the officer assigned to that vehicle and will be maintained according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
    3. Prior to and throughout each shift, officers shall ensure that all components of their Arbitrator equipment are working satisfactorily and will immediately bring any problem to the attention of their supervisor. This Arbitrator equipment check cannot be used in place of any required vehicle inspection.
    4. To ensure operational readiness, officers shall complete the following steps prior to each tour of duty:
      1. Officers shall log in to the camera using their assigned credentials and open the front end.
      2. Camera images should be visible on the screen which will also say “Ready.”
      3. Officers shall record the condition of Arbitrator equipment directly on a Vehicle & Equipment Inspection Report. Supervisors shall review the form and conduct a monthly visual check of Arbitrator equipment in patrol vehicles assigned to officers under their command. 
      4. Should the camera be inoperable, the officer shall notify their supervisor prior to vehicle use. Either the officer or the supervisor shall notify the IT Analyst who will facilitate the repair process. 
  2. Operation: 
    1. All supervisors and patrol officers responsible for the use, inspection and operation of Arbitrator equipment shall be allowed to do so only after receiving training in the use of and operation of the Arbitrator system by Patrol Supervision, field training officers, or the IT Analyst. 
    2. Officers shall ensure that Arbitrator equipment (both video and audio) is activated and operating properly for continuous, pre-event and post-event recording. The video recorder should be positioned to record events in all of the following circumstances:
      1. DUI and traffic stops
      2. Vehicle pursuits
      3. Emergency Code 1 response
      4. Field sobriety tests
      5. Crash scenes, where practical
      6. All suspect interviews in the field, pre and post Miranda
      7. Any interaction with the public, at the officer’s discretion, that may need to be documented for administrative purposes or complaint resolution
      8. NOTE: Encounters involving victim and witness statements regarding crimes of a sexual nature shall not be recorded, unless directed to do so by a supervisor.
    3. Each digital recording automatically defaults based on the trigger. The officer has the option to reclassify the recording as indicated below. The three categories of designation shall consist of:
      1. Classification One - DUI
      2. Classification Two - Traffic
      3. Classification Three - Miscellaneous
    4. The equipment may be manually deactivated during non-enforcement activities.
    5. Officers are encouraged to inform their supervisor of any video/audio recorded sequences that may be of value during the investigation of a citizen complaint or for training purposes.
    6. Officers must ensure that non-related electronic devices within the police vehicle (music radios, CD players, etc.) are turned off when the in-car audio system is activated. This does not apply to police radios. Other noise such as wind or road noise from an open window should also be limited if possible. 
    7. At no time shall an officer use the Arbitrator equipment for other purposes than official police business. Arbitrator equipment shall not be used to create a video/audio recording inside any police facility, during an administrative investigation or courtroom proceedings.
  3. Events Involving Patrol Vehicles with Arbitrator equipment:
    1. Unless physically unable, officers must notify Dispatch if their patrol vehicle is involved in an accident or Arbitrator equipment malfunction.
    2. In addition to all routine notification, Dispatch shall notify the officer’s supervisor and request that the supervisor immediately email the IT Analyst at policeit@vcu.edu.
    3. The supervisor shall inform the IT Analyst of apparent or probable damage to the Arbitrator equipment and request their presence on the scene to retrieve the flash-card memory.
    4. The IT Analyst shall make the determination on retrieving the flash-card memory. Under no circumstances may the flash-card memory be removed or tampered with, by department staff or any person. The IT Analyst shall be solely responsible and authorized by the Chief of Police to manually disengage and/or remove the Arbitrator equipment in its entirety or any portion thereof.
  4. Digital Recordings as Evidence:
    1. Any digital recording, regardless of level designation, may be used as evidence.
    2. If the digital recording is deemed to be necessary for an officer’s court case, the officer shall create a case file, being sure to classify the recording as a case, and add the digital recording to the case file. 
    3. Officers will complete a Property and Evidence Voucher for Arbitrator recordings. A copy will be placed in the case file and the original voucher will be submitted to the Property and Evidence Unit. 
    4. Officers shall utilize the Arbitrator software (Back-End Client) to preserve footage for evidentiary purposes. When Arbitrator footage is used to make an arrest or as part of a criminal or administrative investigation, the officer or supervisor shall use their account credentials to access and preserve the applicable footage.
    5. Officers will only be allowed to view their own personally-recorded files without permission; viewing of another officer’s files requires permission from the Chief of Police.
    6. The digital recording will only be released to attorneys upon the presentation of an original valid subpoena issued by the court that has jurisdiction. All subpoenas will be handled in accordance with departmental policy.
  5. Storage, Retention and Disposal of Digital Recordings:
    1. NOTE: Refer to the Library of Virginia’s Records Retention and Disposition Schedule for All State Law Enforcement Agencies (GS-117) - Recordings, Surveillance or Monitoring Systems - Series No. 012311 (Not used for evidence).
      1. When an Arbitrator-equipped patrol vehicle is within range, recordings saved on the flash-card memory are transferred and stored via wireless upload to the department’s server. The material is then stored in a video server and may be written onto a DVD by the IT Analyst.
        1. NOTE: The Arbitrator system utilizes a back-up battery in the event of a primary battery failure.
      2. Digital recordings shall be retained on a video server for a minimum of 45 days. 
      3. Digital recordings entered into evidence will be handled in accordance with applicable evidence retention schedules (see the Library of Virginia’s GS-117 for further details).
      4. Digital recordings not attached to a case will be automatically purged 45 days after creation.
  6. Training:
    1. Employees shall be fully trained prior to operating any portion of the Arbitrator equipment.
    2. Training shall be conducted by affected supervisors, field training officers or the IT Analyst.
    3. Documentation of Arbitrator equipment training and any retraining shall be forwarded to the Training Academy for inclusion in the employee’s training record.
    4. Digital recordings that contain material considered useful for training can be used for that purpose with the permission of the Chief of Police.
  7. Citizen Review:
    1. All citizen requests for reviewing or copying video/audio recordings will be referred to the Records Manager who shall first determine whether the citizen is entitled to review the recording or whether a legal exception applies. The Records Manager will then either: (a) notify the citizen in writing if documents cannot be produced for legal reasons, or (b) coordinate the date, time and place to allow the complainant access to the video/audio recording.
    2. The Records Manager will process citizen requests for reviewing or copying video/audio recordings in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guidelines.
    3. At no time shall any officer let a complainant review any portion of a video/audio recording without prior approval from the Records Manager and/or the Chief of Police.
    4. That portion of a video/audio recording which contains an event resulting in a citizen complaint against an officer may be reviewed by the complainant.
    5. Any Arbitrator recording which depicts a discharge of a firearm by an officer, or serious injury or death of any person, will not be shown to a complainant without prior approval of the Chief of Police.


Forms and Related Documents

  1. Vehicle & Equipment Inspection Report
  2. Property and Evidence Voucher
  3. Written Directive 3-6 Records Management


Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

3/14/2013 - 3-10 Digital Mobile Video Recorder System (DMVR)