Friday, June 16, 2017

Update on implementation of body-worn cameras

Last fall, the KCPD engaged in a 12-week pilot project to determine the cost and infrastructure required to implement body-worn cameras on all patrol officers. We presented the results of that project to the Board of Police Commissioners this week. I also wanted to share those results with our community.

The pilot project was a very scaled one. The cameras were used only by a few squads at a time. Just those few officers produced an average of 147 videos totaling 82,000 megabytes (MB) a day. The whole project produced 9,300 videos and 5.1 million MB total. Scaling that upward department-wide, we determined we would need 2.4 petabytes of storage (that’s more than 1 billion megabytes). Under the industry-standard 5-year contract, that kind of storage would cost about $3.2 million. For access and security purposes, we determined an on-site server for storage would be best, as opposed to a cloud-based solution.

Those are just the storage costs. Initial equipment costs would be about $2.1 million, with a $56,000 annual maintenance cost. To handle the increased requests for the video from our own officers and investigators, prosecutors and other attorneys, media and the public, we would require up to 25 additional positions at the cost of about $2.2 million annually in salary and benefits. Two new network administrator positions also would be needed at about $173,000.

Finally, there is the infrastructure piece. In order to get the videos from the patrol stations where they will be downloaded to the central server, we need a robust fiber optic connection. We can have all the data in the world, but if there’s no highway for it to travel on, it does no one any good. Our current bandwidth is just enough to handle the videos and storage from our in-car camera systems. It could not handle the additional data. Fortunately, we are working with the City’s Information Technology Department on implementing these fiber solutions.

Those are the results of the pilot project. As you can see, body-worn cameras will be a costly undertaking, and we must work with both elected City officials and staff to determine funding priorities, not just for the police department but for all city services.

Philosophically, we support body-worn cameras and want to implement them as soon as is feasible. But in our research, we have found too many agencies that – in an effort to launch body-worn cameras quickly – created a program that was unsustainable. Some are even being forced to roll back their programs. We have taken a very measured approach because we want to be good stewards who will keep the promises we make. If we say we’re going to implement body-worn cameras, we will, and we will have the storage, infrastructure and personnel to properly support and maintain them.

We also met with many community members to draft a policy for body-worn cameras and the footage they capture. We listened to their concerns and combined them with lessons other law enforcement agencies have learned in their use of body-worn cameras to create a policy that we believe fosters transparency and accountability while protecting community members’ privacy.

We have long been supportive of video to ensure accountability, to identify any issues that could require training and to provide indisputable accounts of incidents. Our in-car camera systems (“dash cams”) have been in use since 1999 and are currently installed on all 337 of our patrol cars. Any body-worn camera systems must complement the in-car cameras we have in place. We will continue to keep the public updated on the progress of the body-worn camera implementation at KCPD.

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