Unless you've been completely ignoring mainstream media as of late, you've undoubtedly read about growing support for police body cams in the United States. Whether you believe the police agencies are doing a good job or not, I think we can all agree the body cams are a great solution when it comes to keeping both sides honest and lawful. However, as some are now finding out, there are some technical hurdles to overcome concerning the daily use of police body cams.
Apart from concerns surrounding pricing as well as the overall quality of recorded video, police departments that have adopted body cams for their own use are running into problems with the limited storage capacities of such devices.
While it's a relatively small city, Clearfield was one of the first communities in the state to begin using police body cams, which started in 2011. According to their latest reports, their IT department currently resides over approximately 3,000 videos per month. Each video may be anywhere from one or two minutes to several hours in length. Moreover, considering the fact that Clearfield is a small city, it's easy to see how larger communities could rack up tens of thousands of hours worth of video on a weekly basis.
Terrence Jackson, senior system administrator with the city of Clearfield, put it in very simple terms by saying: "The body cams alone, with their increased use, we have seen a 483 percent increase in storage requirement."
Many times, local police agencies cannot simply erase unused or unnecessary videos. Some states, including Utah, maintain strict retention standards regarding such recordings. For videos that are actually used in trials, however, videos could be kept for months or even years.
As a result, many departments have no choice but to seek additional funding to cover their increased IT costs. The Clearfield Police Department, for example, asked the city for a sum of $50,000, or one-third of their entire annual IT budget, to support their growing storage needs.
The Des Moines Police Department, based within the state of Iowa, are currently pursuing for $300,000 in funding to start a body cam program of their own. He stated: "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? Are we going to cut personnel? Are we going to increase taxes?"
Exploring Temporary Solutions
There are a number of potential solutions that can be implemented by police agencies in order to accommodate their growing stockpiles of digital video. The city of Clearfield has begun burning their archived videos onto DVD, which still lets them maintain compliance with the state retention guidelines of 30 days. Unfortunately, this serves as a temporary measure that isn't very efficient.
For now, it seems that most police departments have little choice but to use a stopgap strategy as mentioned above or to pursue additional funding. In either case, it's not an envious position to be in.
Storage Capacity Presents a Challenge to Police Body Cams
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