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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.

In default mode, the Axon cameras record at 480p resolution and can store about 8GB of content.

"Most officers record 60 to 90 minutes of video per day," Ward said. That's because officers only activate their body cameras when they believe they need to, such as during a traffic stop or when confronting a suspected criminal.

Both Taser and VieVu sell docking stations for the cameras that automatically upload video to the cloud, while also recharging the devices.

Once uploaded to either Taser or VieVu's cloud video evidence management services, police can maintain a chain of custody of those videos, search them using metadata  and set retention policies for each one.

Pricing for Taser's cloud storage service ranges from $15 to $79 per month, per user. Taser's Officer Safety Plan, which automatically replaces old cameras every 2.5 years, costs $99 per officer per month.

VieVu sells its VERIPATROL cloud service as a bundle priced at $55 per month per officer. After purchasing an LE3 camera for $199, the VieVu Solution includes the VERIPATROL secure file management software and 60GB of storage, which can be increased for 12.5 cents per gigabyte per month). An onsite storage software bundle sells for $25 per officer per month.

The cost is worth the results

While the cost for video cloud storage services may be high, studies have shown the use of police body cameras has reduced citizen complains and officer use-of-force incidents.

In 2013, a year-long study by Cambridge University of the Rialto, Calif. Police Department's use of Axon Flex cameras showed use-of-force incidents dropped by 59%, and citizen complains dropped by 87.5%. The study encompassed more than 50,000 hours of police-public interactions.

"These results carry significant implications for the future of the law enforcement profession," Rialto Police Chief Tony Farrar said in a statement at the time of the study's release.

Farrar was the principle investigator who led the study as part of his graduate degree thesis at Cambridge University.

According to Vievu, the Oakland Police Department was able to reduce use-of-force incidents by 73.8% over the five years since it deployed 619 body cameras.

While the cost and data management headaches may be significant, Birmingham's Brewer said they're all outweighed by the payback: an increase in public trust and fast incident resolution.

Body cameras not only force officers to be more careful about how they execute their duties, but once a citizen is informed they're being recorded, their behavior becomes more civil, too, he said.

Noting the recent drop in use-of-force incidents -- and citizen complaints -- Brewer said body cameras and the accompanying video storage easily achieve a return on investment. 

"If it stops one or two lawsuits, it's paid for itself," he said.


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