Smaller police departments dropping body camera programs amid high costs

Departments in smaller jurisdictions are dropping their programs because of video storage costs

By Police1 Staff

Smaller departments are choosing to end their body camera programs because of the costs.

Evidence retention laws in combination with the high cost of video storage is the culprit for many of these agencies, The Washington Post reports.

Body cameras “are wonderful for winning public trust, but it’s expensive,” East Dundee Police Chief George Carpenter told the paper. The department is located in a tiny suburb of Chicago and has 17 officers.

Police have been using body cameras to help restore and build public trust over the past few years. Although the cameras were widely adopted, many departments, especially those in smaller jurisdictions, are dropping or delaying their programs because of the expenses of storing and managing thousands of hours of footage.

Axon, a body camera manufacturer, says every client that has canceled a contract did so because of the costs.

“The easy part is buying the body cameras and issuing them to the officers. They are not that expensive,” said Jim Pasco, executive director at the National Fraternal Order of Police. “But storing all the data that they collect — that cost is extraordinary. The smaller the department, the tougher it tends to be for them.”

Approximately half of the nation’s law enforcement agencies have some type of body camera program with some outfitting patrol officers with cameras and others requiring everyone, including police chiefs, to wear a camera.

One of the first police agencies to cancel their program was in Jeffersonville, Indiana in 2016 after state lawmakers voted to require storing videos for at least 190 days. At least seven other states passed similar storage laws in 2016. Now, at least 14 states have passed storage requirement laws.

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