Police departments across America have implemented the use of body cameras to increase accountability and transparency, but will they be able to afford to keep them?
The Department of Justice’s Body Worn Camera Partnership Program was awarded $30 million for 2017. This money was circulated to police departments toward the cost of body-worn cameras. However, the cost did not end upon their purchase, which are at about $1,000 per camera; hidden costs include storage and manual editing.
Police departments in large cities can generate 10,000 hours of video a week or more. This requires high volume, cloud-based storage facilities, which are costly. Police officers download their data at the end of each shift. Portions of the video can be edited from the beginning or the end of the footage, but otherwise, it cannot be touched. Additional staff have been employed to review the footage to see which parts can be released to the public. The Freedom of Information Act will enable the public to review footage, and this is where costs could spiral out of control. Footage is saved on the server for 13 months and can be called up at any point for use in criminal investigations and public complaints against the police. It is thought that the storage costs could be approximately $100 per month, per camera.
There are additional expenses in the form of maintenance or replacement costs, in addition to training cost and security. Officers need to be aware of the department’s video recording policies and how to operate the necessary devices for recording and saving footage. The police officers are the ones who are required to wear these body-worn cameras, and they must know when to switch them on and off. The general public needs to be satisfied that police officers are acting appropriately and not using excessive force. Police officers can embrace this opportunity and show the public what happens in a day in the life of a police officer. People don’t realise the training, the hours, the driving skills and the worry they put on their shoulders on a day to day basis. The saving grace is when out in a company car they will have a Fleet Vehicle Tracking system which tracks the cars whereabouts which means someone will know exactly where they are at all times. Companies all over the country are getting this for the safety aspect and are finding out more information on sites like https://www.vehicle-accessories.net/vehicle-tracking/fleet-tracking/.
It is still early for any decisions to be made about this relatively new technology. Most departments have taken out a five-year plan. By then, they should have a clearer idea of whether this new law enforcement tool is truly worth it.