Thursday, December 4, 2014

Requisite storage - two very important words in President Obama's Body Worn Camera Partnership Program

I've previously talked ad nauseum about the issues involved in getting police agencies to use body worn cameras. In the past, I've discussed societal costs. But there are also monetary costs.

President Obama has proposed to help local agencies meet these costs.

The President has proposed a three-year, $263 million investment package that will:

•Increase police officers’ use of body worn cameras
•Expand training for law enforcement agencies (LEAs)
•Add more resources for police department reform
•Multiply the number of cities where the Department of Justice facilitates community and local LEA engagement

Part of the proposal is a new Body Worn Camera Partnership Program, which would provide a 50 percent match to states and localities that purchase body worn cameras and requisite storage. In fact, the proposed $75 million, three-year investment could help purchase 50,000 body worn cameras.

As noted in a recent report released by Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), evidence shows that body worn cameras help strengthen accountability and transparency, and that officers and civilians both act in a more positive manner when they're aware that a camera is present.

As you can see, the cost to implement body worn cameras could be $150 million or more - $75 million from the Federal government, and $75 million from states and localities. However, if you read the statement carefully, it doesn't just cover the cameras. Note the following two words:

requisite storage

Extremely important words. When you're using these cameras, you're amassing a large amount of video. PoliceOne's Tim Dees attempted to calculate the costs involved.

Here’s a calculation based on a 50-officer agency: say 60% of your cops work on a typical day, and each produces an average of four hours of video. If the video is encoded at 640x480 VGA (the format stored by the TASER AXON system, one of the more popular models) it’s going to take up 15-20 MB of space per minute (TASER may compress the video better than that— this is just an estimation). That’s just over 1 GB per hour, times four hours, times 30 cops, times three shifts: 360 GB per day, more than a terabyte every three days, ten terabytes per month.

How long do you want to keep that video on file before you delete it? If you say “forever,” get ready to write an increasingly large check each month. If you can live with, say, three months, that’s about 30 terabytes worth of storage, plus whatever you keep around for open cases.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the largest cloud storage services in the world. Netflix uses them for their trove of streaming video. There are a lot of variables, but the figure I got for keeping this volume of video online with AWS, creating a new volume at the end of each sift, is $6260.79. Apply whatever multiples you might need for more cops or a longer retention interval.

As Dees notes, the cost of storage far outweighs the initial costs of the cameras themselves. And Dees notes that while the cameras themselves are one-time purchases (until they break), storage is an ongoing cost. What happens when the Body Worn Camera Partnership Program runs out of money? Will the states and localities fund the whole thing at 100%, or will they shut the whole thing down due to lack of funding?

Dees has a solution:

If the federal government was to provide archiving services for bodycam-generated video, the storage costs for local agencies would disappear.
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