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A 5-step guide to initiating your body camera pilot program

How the Riley County Police Department adopted the 5 phases of project management with its body camera pilot program


The following is paid content sponsored by TASER International
 

By Police1 BrandFocus Staff

The decision to adopt a body camera program is a big commitment — no matter how large or small the agency and there are more considerations than just finding the budget to purchase the cameras.

The agency must factor in a range of product considerations, from video quality and storage options to dash cam integration and many others. But equally important are departmental concerns such as training, policy changes, and the impact on the community.

In light of all those factors, where does an agency even begin?

Captain Tim Hegarty and the Riley County Police Department in Manhattan, (Kan.) were asking this same question when they decided to adopt the standard ‘5 phases of project management’ approach.

1. Initiating

First for Riley County was determining the need for a body camera program. There was no imminent community problem that drove a need for the cameras, but Hegarty and his officers determined that in the future, it’s very likely that body camera technology will be required whether legislated or decided upon by the agency.

"We decided, ‘We don’t need it right now, so why not take the time to explore our options so that when the time comes, we do know what we need and how to go about it?’"

2. Planning

The agency mapped out every step they needed to meet, start to finish. They started by mapping out the requirements the body cameras would need to fulfill, from the perspective of officers, IT, prosecutors, the evidence department, and training. That way, they had a checklist they could use to compare one camera company to another.

3. Executing 

Simply put, the execution phase is the physical act of taking the cameras to the streets and trying them out in real-life scenarios.

Many agencies decide to deploy body cameras in waves first assigning them to officers who have the most contact with community members, such as patrol officers.

By rolling out the program in waves, the agency can address the initial issues officers experience in manageable doses, whether technical problems or evaluating the amount of bandwidth officers need.

Riley County’s pilot program involved testing two different body camera companies and their respective platforms. It’s common for agencies to test multiple brands, if budget allows. Sizing up each with your original list of requirements is the best way to conclude which camera checks the most boxes.

4. Monitoring and Maintaining

The fourth phase starts simultaneously with the third: keeping a record of the trial, revising the plan as necessary, and ensuring it’s being executed the way you planned.

Again, this is where the checklist of requirements becomes handy. Is your internal IT (or external, if the camera company is responsible) successful in efficiently addressing and solving technical issues?

Are officers finding it easy to comply with the tagging system you’ve put in place so that video can easily be retrieved for evidence?

Is managing your own storage the way to go, or is cloud storage worth trying?  Hegarty quickly came to realize that for them, cloud storage and external management was the best option.

“The easier it is to record, the more you will record,” said Hegarty. "That means more server space, storage upgrades – we wanted a program with a cloud option."

5. Closing and Evaluating

You bring the evaluation to a close in order to assess the project based on your objectives. Look at what worked, what didn’t work, and make a decision from there.

This isn’t a quick process and the timeline will differ from one agency to the next. Riley County is about a year and a half in and still evaluating the program.

Capt. Hegarty took part in a webinar produced by TASER to share his agency’s lessons thus far to help other police departments who are considering deploying similar pilot programs.

"My concern was that because of what’s being played out in the news, agencies are rushing out to buy [body worn cameras] without giving a whole lot of thought to all of the aspects of a long-term decision," explained Hegarty.

Capt. Hegarty sat down with TASER’s Joe Fiumara for TASER  International's webinar, "The 5 Phases of a Successful BWC Pilot," to discuss the lessons his agency has learned, how they’re collaborating with the tech companies who manufacture these body cameras, and how they’re approaching the challenge of managing vast amounts of video storage. The full webinar is available for download at TASER.com.

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