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Police Body Cameras Have Significant Storage Costs

After the conflict that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, last year, there was a government call to equip police officers with body cameras in order to make them accountable for their actions and improve community relations. However, The Associated Press is reporting that the heavy costs of storing all this video footage are being unlooked in the debates.

The footage would have to be kept for months or years, which for some cities would mean that the expense of storage would go into the millions of dollars. When budgets are tight, local authorities won’t want to choose between whether to pay up storage fees or letting officers go.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Mayor of Baltimore, has spoken about the cost of these body cameras. In December 2014 she vetoed a proposal to have officers wearing cameras because she didn’t think the costs had been properly considered. Not only would the actual physical storage be expensive, but extra staff would be needed to manage this data, which some estimate would cost up to $2.6 million.

Rawlings-Blake will be presenting another plan in the spring, commenting that this would be a change on a large scale and it needs the time to be planned properly. She believes that if that doesn’t happen then it’ll be a failure and cause community disappointment.

The AP report that the cameras worn by beat cops in some cities were purchased at discount in bulk, in a deal that would be more lucrative for device manufacturers in the long run. Depending on the quantity of sale, the cost runs to between $20 and $100 per officer per month.

Police Chief Gordon Ramsay of Duluth, Minnesota, has 110 of his officers earing cameras. These create from 8000 to 10000 videos per month, all kept for at least 30 days and some for longer. His department originally paid under $5000 for 84 cameras and charging bays, but the three year contract and licensing agreement for the actual storage of this data cost $78000.

Many cities across the States are concerned about how they’d actually finance such a scheme. The police department in Wichita, Kansas, have proposed selling a suspect-searching helicopter in order to fund the estimated $6.4 million cost that would stack up over a decade, which includes the equipment and two employees to manage the data.

Police officials have said that the cost of body cameras would likely exceed those of the in-car video systems that were implemented during the turn of the century. Some have commented that it’s been difficult to finance the maintenance of those systems, let alone shelling out for a whole new system.

Those departments currently making use of body cameras have had to limit when their officers use them, what data they store and for how long they keep it. But for many, adding storage costs and hiring the extra staff would be too prohibitive.

“Everybody is screaming, 'We need body cameras.' But nobody is saying, where is the money coming from? What are you going to do with all the data? Who is going to manage it?” said Sgt. Jason Halifax of the Des Moines Police Department. “Are we going to cut personnel? Are we going to increase taxes?”

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