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Storage space, price a challenge for agencies requiring police officers to wear body cameras

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Posted at 10:00 PM, Feb 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-19 00:00:16-05

CLEARFIELD, Utah -- It seems like every time there is an officer involved shooting, the first thing the public wants to know is whether or not there was a body camera in use. However, police departments around the state say it’s much more complicated than just strapping a camera on a cop.

A new challenge has begun to arise, and that’s where to keep all that video that’s being collected.

“The body cams alone, with their increased use, we have seen a 483 percent increase in storage requirement,” said Terrence Jackson, Senior System Administrator for the city of Clearfield.

In 2011, Clearfield was one of the first cities in the state to require all of their officers to wear body cameras. According to their IT department, they collect an average of 3,000 videos a month ranging in length from a few minutes to a few hours.

“They have body cams and car cams, we would like to have either used for any kind of conversation or contact with the citizen,” said Assistant Chief Mike Stenquist.

The city says by July they will be completely out of space. They’ve already begun burning video onto DVDs as a temporary fix. According to Utah retention laws, all videos must be kept for a minimum of 30 days. However, if the case ends up in court it can be much longer.

“Some cases require indefinite storage and some five years,” Stenquist said.

The police department is asking the city for $50,000 for more server space to hold all of this video. That’s one third of the regular IT budget.

“As I’ve gone through, it was sort of a shocking surprise to us when I saw where we were at with some of the storage here,” Jackson said.

Some departments, like Salt Lake City, outsource their video to data storage companies. Clearfield fears that could be even more expensive.

“A lot of your storage, cloud storage providers, charge a very minimal amount to keep it there, but they charge you when you put it there and they charge you when they pull it back,” Jackson said.

Clearfield has 28 officers, so agencies like the Unified Police Department would need even more storage to accommodate their much larger staff of more than 400 officers. Unified is currently researching the idea of adding body cams.

“We don’t have that infrastructure in place and when that time comes and we invest in the body cams we’ll have to buy the data capabilities to store that,” said Lt. Justin Hoyal, of the Unified Police Department.