How to make body cameras a reality for a small police department

Software-defined storage allowed the Orchard Park Police Department to deploy body-worn cameras

By Chief Mark Pacholec, P1 Contributor

Technology is revolutionizing police operations, helping to expedite and improve investigations. Unfortunately, implementing new technology can be as complicated as solving a 20-year-old cold case. Why? Many police departments are using servers or hard drives that are unable to handle the amount of data produced by new technology like body cameras.

Body-worn cameras are becoming a crucial part of public safety operations. It’s no longer a question of if police forces should adopt body cameras, but rather how and when.

We took advantage of the most economical and impactful approach, a technology called software-defined storage. (Photo/Pixabay)
We took advantage of the most economical and impactful approach, a technology called software-defined storage. (Photo/Pixabay)

So why isn’t every police department jumping at the chance to update their legacy IT systems and adopt body cameras? The answer is cost. The cost to integrate body-worn cameras – from buying the cameras to housing the data the cameras produce – can be crippling for smaller departments.

Research by the Police Executive Research Forum found data storage costs can reach up to $2 million annually for a police department. Many departments don't have enough space on servers or hard drives to meet the considerable data needs for video storage. However, there is a way for body cameras to become more than a pipe dream without breaking the bank. 

Overcoming The Cost & Storage Problem

Located just outside of Buffalo, New York, the town of Orchard Park is recognized by many football fans as home to the Buffalo Bills stadium, which means the population grows dramatically at the first kickoff of the season. With an influx of visitors, the likelihood of incidents that require police attention greatly increases.  

The new Orchard Park Police Department’s body cameras were an asset during football season for on-duty police officers, helping them keep the public safe. However, the department faced challenges storing the large amounts of data produced from the footage obtained by the cameras.

While a grant from the Orchard Park Police Foundation paid for all of our cameras, our department needed its own funding to update the infrastructure to store video data and to retrieve and stream footage.

Department modernization was a necessity for our team to properly take advantage of our investment in body cameras. First the system had to fulfill legal mandates that required us to retain video data for various periods of time, from as few as 30 days to permanent storage. The network also needed to store data from mounted surveillance cameras and operational data from town employees. For a smaller police department like ours, this was a complicated video environment with a high risk of open-ended costs.

Software-Defined Storage

We took advantage of the most economical and impactful approach, a technology called software-defined storage. This solution helped our department store large volumes of data with limited resources.

Software-defined storage is an approach to data storage in which the programming that controls storage-related tasks is decoupled from the physical storage hardware, enabling the use of industry-standard hardware, which is much more cost effective.  By taking advantage of software-defined storage technology, the department could store footage from more cameras and keep the data for longer periods of time.  

Solutions like these are a result of an open developer initiative by the open source community, harnessing the engineering strength of thousands of active developers. With this community approach, the developer contributions enable organizations such as ours to stay current with storage technology while also keeping costs down.

Using this newly adopted storage system, Orchard Park is now supporting surveillance cameras, body cameras and operational data from all of the town’s departments. The network can also support surveillance tools that help keep police officers and citizens safe.

Police departments need to invest in technology that will help them protect individuals and bring a greater transparency to their communities. Body-worn cameras increase transparency and professionalism and even offer a cost savings on internal investigations and lawsuit settlements.

Don’t let the fear of storage costs hold your department back from upgrading to relevant technology. The variety of camera and storage options available today can help your department keep costs down and help your teams keep everyone safe.

About the author
Mark Pacholec is the Chief of Police for the town of Orchard Park. The primary purpose of the Town of Orchard Park Police Department is the protection of life and property, enforcement of laws, reduction of crimes, maintaining public order and the delivery of services which promote community well-being.

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