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As police move to adopt body cams, storage costs set to skyrocket

Lucas Mearian | Sept. 4, 2015
Petabytes of police video are flooding into cloud services.

Vining said the problem with the recent push for police body cameras is that the political pressure spurring their adoption has gotten ahead of evidentiary procedures and the storage technology required to support them.

The fatal shooting of  Brown, an 18-year-old black man, by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo. in August 2014 marked a turning point. After the Ferguson shooting, trials of Taser's body cameras by police departments in major U.S. cities tripled; Taser's stock price also has more than doubled since that time.

"What [Ferguson] did for us was put a tremendous spotlight of the body camera's availability in public's knowledge," Tuttle said.

"One of the biggest things we have noticed is that our request for trial units have gone up over 75% since the Ferguson incident," said VieVu's Ward.

This week, for example, county commissioners in San Antonio approved funds for additional body cameras for sheriff's deputies. The funds were approved just hours after the release of a video that showed two deputies fatally shot a Hispanic man who appeared to have his hands up in the air.

Although the push for more body cameras is growing, several states still have laws requiring suspects to consent to being videotaped, Vining said.

And there are the associated costs, which have drawn far less attention.

"There's the enormous storage and data management cost, which is daunting," Vining  added. "A records management system is a police department's Bible. If you're going to create video content, it has to be accessible to the records management system."

Just as with any physical evidence, video footage must be tracked with a chain of custody, and there are digital rights management issues that determine who can and  cannot access police video. The Criminal Justice Information Services Division (CJIS) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) governs policies for securely storing video content.

VieVu pitches its video service as more compliant with CJIS policies because it's based on the Windows Azure Government cloud, which uses more advanced security and requires government audits.

What kind of cameras, and how many?

Safariland's VieVu has distributed body cameras to some 4,000 police agencies, according to Tuttle. Scottsdale-based Taser said it's shipped 52,700 body cameras to 3,500 police departments.

Taser sells two types of cameras: The Axon Flex camera ($599) is a micro-camera that can attach to a pair of sun glasses or the visor of a police officer's cap, so as an officer's head turns, it captures what he or she sees. The camera attaches by cable to a mini-DVR that's also on the officer's body.

The Axon Body camera ($399) is a larger camera that attaches to an officer's shirt or vest and offers a wider-angle view. Both Axon cameras have a single button that a police officer can tap twice to activate them.


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