Hidden costs of body cameras for law enforcement agencies

Hidden costs of body cameras for law enforcement agencies
Body cam snapshot from 2012 SWAT raid in Evansville.
Body cam snapshot from 2012 SWAT raid in Evansville.
Digital Ally body cameras EPD uses.
Digital Ally body cameras EPD uses.

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Police body cameras are a hot topic right now across the country.

14NEWS has learned about one issues that's not getting a lot of attention, yet.

That's the hidden costs agencies incur to store all the video.

In the two years since Evansville Police got body cameras, they've racked up 350,000-360,000 videos.

All those videos have to be stored on computer servers for a period of 10 years.

Sergeant Jason Cullum says the department has already spent an extra $40,000, in the first two years, just to store all the videos.

That cost comes from having to add extra space on their existing computer server for $10,000.

And after that space ran out, buying a completely new server for $30,000.

"We're operating under a 10-year retention policy, so the cost associated with that is enormous," explains Sgt. Cullum.

Sergeant Cullum estimates the department will spend $30,000 for new servers every 1-2 years.

That's until they reach the year 2024, and the time span on some of their earliest videos runs out.

Not only are the videos clogging up server space, but the majority of them are never used for anything.

"When you talk about 360,000 videos, you've got many that aren't being used for anything.  They're just sitting on a server," explains Sgt. Cullum.

Evansville Police know they have to hold video for criminal investigations, but many of the videos never lead to any criminal or civil case.

It doesn't matter if the video is for a murder scene, or a drunk person in the park, they all have a 10-year shelf life.

" There is a substantial cost, especially when you look at what are we actually hanging on to," explains Sgt. Cullum.

In the first two years, the formal complaints against EPD officers have nearly been cut in half.

There's no denying body cameras are a very useful tool for investigations and accountability.

But the hidden costs associated with body cameras could deter some smaller departments from purchasing them, according to Sgt. Cullum.

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