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article imageBody Cameras shelved by some police departments — costs cited

By Karen Graham     Sep 12, 2016 in Technology
Some police departments that outfitted their officers with body cameras are now reversing course and doing away with them, citing state regulations that require a lengthy video storage period as being too costly.
About a third of the 18,000 police agencies in the U.S. are either testing or have embraced body cameras to record their officer's interactions when dealing with the public. But departments in Indiana and Connecticut have called a halt to their programs after their states imposed new regulations governing the length of time the videos must be held in storage.
In Indiana, the new law requires that police departments keep the videotapes in storage for at least 190 days. The Clarksville Police Department in the southern end of the state ended their program in late June this year after using body cameras since 2012. Clarksville is a community of about 20,000 people.
Chief Mark Palmer says the police department's video storage and maintenance costs have been averaging between $5,000 and $10,000 a year. But the new law that took effect on July 1 would have raised the costs to about $50,000 to $100,000 for the first year because his department would have to keep the videos six times longer.
Palmer says the police department would have probably had to buy new servers and even some new cameras and software, plus train someone to use it. But while he says the cost would have ended up going down after the first year, it still would have been higher than usual.
"This has really hit us hard. That's not the kind of thing we budgeted for when we set this year's budget in place," Palmer said of his department in the Ohio River community of Clarksville, according to ABC News.
The nearby city of Jeffersonville has also opted out of using the body cameras for the same reason. Other Indiana police departments are holding off on committing to using the cameras while they assess the impact of the new law on surrounding departments. Palmer did say he was working with the Jeffersonville police department to figure out ways they could work together to keep the costs down.
Connecticut is facing the same increased costs for storage of videotapes. A new state law that went into effect on January 1 this year requires videotapes to be stored for 90 days and up to four years if they are considered evidentiary. Chief Paul Fitzgerald of the Berlin, Connecticut Police department was quoted by Mashable as saying, "Everybody's trying to maintain budgets and that becomes very difficult. It's the long-term costs, of unfunded mandates."
At least eight states, including Indiana, Oregon, Illinois, Nevada, California, New Hampshire, Nebraska and Georgia have laws governing the length of time body camera videos must be kept in storage. But it is the medium-sized police departments, those with 50 to 250 officers that are facing the biggest challenges in the storage of the footage.
Most police departments either need to buy servers or pay for storage on a cloud service. Then there are additional costs in hiring and training someone to handle public record requests, manage the videos and redact or blur the faces of innocent bystanders or minors to protect their privacy.
Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst for the national American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy and Technology Project readily acknowledges the cost of body cameras and accompanying technologies can be expensive. But he is worried that some departments may use costs as an excuse to get out of using the cameras.
"There could be good reasons for a community not to adopt body cameras, but a police department's desire to escape accountability is not one of them," Stanley said.
More about Body cameras, Police departments, Costs, video storage rules, Budgets
 
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