As body worn cameras become standard issue in police departments across the United States there’s a growing need for policy and guidance around how to best manage these new tools.  While most conversations focus on the ‘front end’, when police should record and rights to privacy, to identify just two important topics, there needs to be an equal, if not greater focus on what happens once the data is collected from the camera in terms of how it is stored and accessed, chain of custody requirements, and other data management issues.

According to a recent report – Police Body Worn Cameras: A Policy Scorecard – released by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Upturn, a Washington, D.C. public policy consultancy, most police departments surveyed lacked policy in areas such as footage retention, footage access, and ways to secure data and protect against misuse.   In an interview with GovTech to discuss the findings of the report Harlan Yu, principal at Upturn noted:

 “[o]ne of the main selling points for body-worn cameras is their promise to bring transparency and accountability to community-policy interactions…but body-worn cameras are not a panacea and they don’t automatically bring about accountability.  In order for cameras to live up to their promise, departments have to carefully craft policy safeguards to guide the use of these cameras and the footage they produce.”

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The Policy Scorecard, courtesy of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights & Upturn

What does it mean to create policy safeguards to guide the use of cameras and the footage they produce?  From a technical perspective according to Chip George, Senior Director for State and Local Government and Education at NetApp, local CIOs must, at a minimum, expand their IT infrastructure to the cloud to support not only the increased storage requirements of high-resolution video evidence but ensure that their storage infrastructure can:

  • Enable continuous access to digital video evidence with high reliability and 99.999% availability
  • Facilitate secure sharing of video evidence with authorized users
  • Support the capacity and bandwidth required to integrate third-party video-evidence applications
  • Maintain data integrity, secure, access, and meet retention policies
  • Securely backup evidence
  • Lower operational costs

But given that local governments, like all public sector organizations, are operating on strict budgets, how can IT investments be funded?

There is good news on this front.  In the coming months a significant amount of federal and state grant funding will become available to support public safety initiatives, including grants to support IT infrastructure that enables the secure storage and management of video evidence.  These grants include the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, as well as funding from the Department of Justice and other federal agencies.

Interested in learning more about these grants and strategies for maximizing awards for the management and storage infrastructure?  You can listen to a recent webinar here.