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5 expert tips for buying a BWC system

Don’t spend a dime until you have all the facts


The following is paid sponsored content by CDW-G.

By John Rivera for PoliceOne BrandFocus

As many police agencies contemplate having their officers use some kind of video system during their daily duties, there are several considerations that should be taken.

These buying tips will help you build the right BWC system. (Image Pixabay)
These buying tips will help you build the right BWC system. (Image Pixabay)

As an officer who has had a working experience with software purchasing and training, I’ve learned the dos and don’ts when it comes to purchasing a new technology. So check out my five tips below in order to purchase the right video system for your department.

1. Budget

First and foremost, you must consider your department’s budget.

If an agency considers a video system, cost is usually the first question. Cameras may be inexpensive but the software supporting the camera may be expensive for some agencies.

For example, it is not just the initial cost for the system that could be expensive; some may not consider that computer systems may have to be upgraded as well. Then there is the ongoing cost of software maintenance (yes, believe or not, software frequently requires to be maintained).

You have to understand a video system is a long-term investment, and budget dollars must be allocated in order to pay for it. (There are grants available. Check out this article to learn more about funding.)

2. Storage

Another consideration is how you will store videos. In small agencies there could be a simple solution, but in a large agency it could turn costly.

What is not realized is video data takes up space: the higher the resolution the more data that needs to be stored. For example, regular DVD’s are 4.7 gigabytes. But Blue Ray DVD’s are 25 gigabytes. The reason Blue Rays are larger is because the picture resolution has more detail and contains more data.

To offset costs, the decision has to be made as to the method of storage. Will it be an in house server or in the cloud? The cloud offers unlimited storage while an onsite storage system needs to be paid for or maintained.

Whether it is an in house server or cloud storage, know it will affect the budget.

3. Applications

Users may not realize video and audio data comes in different formats.

Video/audio is typically MP4 and audio is typically MP3. Both MP3 and MP4 can be played in a multitude of players and computers. MP4 is short for MPEG4, which stands for Moving Picture Expert Group-4. Since most police agencies use computers with a Windows Operating System, the MP4 video format is easily viewed.

Some video system companies use proprietary video viewers requiring a specific video player to view the video. This could prove difficult because there may only be one computer able to play the video or audio. So having one or two computers with the ability to view a proprietary video or audio recording is beneficial.

When deciding which video system to purchase, ensure the software is user friendly and/or the company will send trainers to train users how to properly use the software.

4. Licensing

Software licensing is a sort of authorization to use software. A consideration many potential purchasers fail to think of is the cost of software itself. 

For instance, if an agency uses a Windows Operating System (and almost all do), each of those computers are cataloged by the IT department and is charged for each computer using the operating system.

IT Departments for large entities will purchase an Enterprise License; this allows the entity to install that software on any computer used within that particular company.

5. Evidence

An agency also must think about how long to store video not associated with a critical incident.

When storing video for evidentiary reasons that video is usually transferred to a removable storage device and placed into evidence. But it still may be required to be stored in a computer according to policy. If the agency has not properly prepared to store the video, it could prove difficult to store or retrieve data.

I know this list seems short but I would consider it the most important tips to consider before buying a system. We are expected by the public to already possess the proper equipment and the technology to ensure evidence is properly handled and stored. In public safety, we must think ahead. We do not have luxury of postponing implementation.

John Rivera is a patrol officer with the Bremerton Police Department.

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