I am wondering if the City of Rochester may be repeating the mistake other cities and towns have made by rushing into a police body-camera program without a complete understanding of the program’s probable costs, especially in terms of the cost of data storage.
In some cities, the cost of data storage runs into the millions of dollars annually. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake vetoed a body-camera program for her police department last year “because she didn’t believe that the costs and other details were adequately considered,” according to the Associated Press
. Estimated costs for storage and the extra staff needed to manage the video data was $2.6 million a year.
The police department in Wichita, Kansas, proposed selling a helicopter to fund its body camera program, the story says, which is estimated to cost $6.4 million over a decade. And San Diego expects to pay about $3.6 million annually for storage and related costs, according to the AP.
A law-enforcement source tells me that vendors sometimes sell the cameras on the cheap, knowing that they’re going to make the big money on back-door costs such as storage. Data storage is, in fact, the most expensive aspect of a body camera program, says the Bureau of Justice Assistanc
Storage costs depend on many factors, such as how many videos are produced, how long they’re kept, and how much additional staffing is required to manage the data. There are also significant administrative costs, such as the cost of providing ongoing training for the program, maintaining the cameras, and responding to requests from the public and the media for copies of the videos.
The City of Rochester hasn’t yet said how much it expects its program, which it hopes to get off the ground in June, to cost, although a camera vendor has been chosen, pending approval by City Council. The vendor is MES Lawmen of Lanham, Maryland. The city also hasn’t released its policies yet for camera use — which law-enforcement sources everywhere say is the real crux of the program.
Post-Ferguson and given the federal money that Obama made available, municipalities all over the country are rushing to implement body camera programs, but many do it without realizing that the cameras aren’t a panacea for the tension between white cops and communities of color and with insufficient understanding of the long-term costs of the programs.