3 cost-saving strategies for your body camera budget

What is the true cost of outfitting your police force with body-worn cameras?


By PoliceOne Staff

What is the true cost of outfitting your police force with body-worn cameras? As most police departments that have implemented the technology can attest, the hardware cost is just a small part (the smallest, in fact) of the equation.

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the Department of Justice's Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) conducted a study in which officers of varying ranks discussed some of the issues that arose when creating a budget for the devices and the ongoing costs associated with them. Here are three key cost-saving strategies they found.

The cost of cloud storage can easily skyrocket based on the volume of raw video an agency is holding on to. (AP Image)
The cost of cloud storage can easily skyrocket based on the volume of raw video an agency is holding on to. (AP Image)

1.  Shorter Data Retention Periods for Non-Evidentiary Footage
The cost of cloud storage can easily skyrocket based on the volume of raw video an agency is holding on to. According to PERF, some agencies are tackling this issue by cutting the length of time non-evidentiary video (i.e. community policing activities or other civilian contact that doesn’t end in arrest) is stored. Some agencies have settled on a 60-90 day timeframe.

Another factor that plays into this is the amount of manpower required for review and redaction of sensitive information when a public records request has demanded the release of a video. Captain James Jones of the Houston Police Department told PERF: “It takes a lot of time, and personnel, to review and redact every tape. If you keep video for five years, it is going to take even more.”

By limiting your retention time, you also set a limit on public records requests and the labor burden that comes with them. Another answer to the redaction problem is purchasing body cameras from a manufacturer that offers automated video redaction software. Many of the big-name vendors already have this or are currently developing it.

2. Moving Videos that Require Long-Term Retention Off the Cloud
Video of an incident that will, by law, require long-term retention (such as evidence of a shooting or another serious felony) can be deleted from cloud storage after being moved to an agency’s RMS or IA case management system. By moving these files off of cloud storage and onto a hard disk, for example, you can free up space on your offsite storage system and prevent it from growing in size (and price).  

3. Linking Recorded Data to Your Agency’s RMS
Time is money, and the burden that tagging and categorizing video footage creates can result in cops spending a great deal of time catching up after their shifts have ended. One solution is to create an automated process that links videos to a department’s RMS. One agency PERF interviewed purchased electronic tablets that allowed officers to view and tag videos out in the field. Some body cameras allow cops to do this on the camera itself without the need for additional hardware.

Conclusion
In a survey conducted by PERF, 39 percent of respondents that do not use body cams cited cost as a primary reason. Carefully evaluating certain areas — such as data retention time and the process for reviewing and categorizing videos — can go a long way in decreasing the costs of a body camera program.   

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