Hidden costs in body worn camera systems

Hidden costs in body worn camera systems

Body-worn cameras have been implemented in police departments across the country to increase transparency and to ensure both police and citizens are complying with the law. Some departments have been slow to adopt the cameras because of the high costs of redacting and storing the data and maintaining a system.

A new report from Utility, a mobile operations company, categorizes some of the expenses of an ongoing body-worn camera program and offers suggestions on what law enforcement agencies should consider when they conduct a five-year total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis.

Adequate licenses. Some video management systems allow courts and prosecutors to access body-worn camera video, but only with additional software user licenses.

Video classification options.  Some systems allow officers to tag video at the scene so it can be found later, while others require police to upload video at the end of a shift and then classify it.

Redaction expenses. Manually redacting video is an enormously time consuming and error prone process that is often the largest cost component of the total cost of ownership.  

Infrastructure upgrades. A body worn camera program may require on-site networking infrastructure and power improvements in addition to the cameras and docking stations.

Video and evidence management software.  A wide variety of features are available, such as GPS tagging, which may add cost but be essential.

Video storage. Whether the storage in question involves local servers or the cloud, law enforcement agencies should carefully evaluate offers of “unlimited data storage,” which may not meet with department needs or policies.

Security. The full system – from cameras and docking stations to software and storage -- must be secure.

Training. Officers must learn not only how to operate the devices but also how to apply their department’s video recording policies, which may have changed with the addition of body worn cameras.

Ongoing support. Coverage for maintenance and equipment replacement will vary according to the contract.

According to Utility, body-worn camera hardware “is often far less than half” of the five-year TCO.  The report provides a methodology for calculating ownership costs and a comparison of expenses between Utility’s body-worn video camera solution and a typical clip-on, manually operated body-worn video camera.

Read the full report here.

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.


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