Christmas came a little early this year for the Sedona Police Department.
To keep up with modern technology and requirements, the police department requested to update its in-car video systems as well as take part in a pilot program that would bring with it three body-worn cameras for officers, a first for SPD.
According to a city report, the police department’s current in-car video system is over 11 years old. The recorded media is currently being stored on DVDs, which causes storage and retention issues. In addition, the system does not have the ability to redact any recordings, which is sometimes required by law.
“Today’s modern police organizations have in-car and/ or body cameras to record officers’ actions and field incidents, and it has become almost a required piece of law enforcement equipment,” the report states. “Departments choosing not to deploy these systems will be the focus of scrutiny, as they will be the anomaly.”
With the new system, the body-camera accessory is contained in the all-in-one system price.
The preference is to replace all units at once — 24 units plus three spare body cameras — so each officer is equipped with the same system, and the training, the software and the storage and retrieval system are all the same.
The Fiscal Year 2020-21 tentative budget includes the in-car video system replacement as a purchase.
However, Police Chief Charles Husted recommended proceeding with a lease purchase option. This item was on the consent portion of the council’s agenda so council members did not discuss it. But the council did approve a five-year lease term for the new equipment, totaling $185,261, plus an additional $4,918 annually for maintenance and licensing.
The three body cameras will be a pilot project to identify the future needs for additional body cameras and staff workload for records redaction.
Police don’t anticipate additional staffing during the pilot project but it will likely be needed if the project is expanded in the future.
“While body-worn camera equipment itself isn’t pricey, associated costs regarding data storage and capacity related to necessary redaction are significant unknown factors that we must assess,” Husted wrote. “For example, many agencies are forced to establish and hire staff whose primary responsibility is to effectively manage the behind-the-scenes work needed to properly maintain a body-worn camera program.”
While software exists to help redact faces from video data, Husted said people are still needed to check every second of video to ensure privacy items are addressed.
Reviewing every second of video for these camera systems becomes cumulative, potentially creating a capacity issue. However, SPD’s pilot body-worn camera pilot program involves just the deployment of three body cameras.
“This will allow us an opportunity to understand the long-term impacts and internal capacity needs in order to effectively implement a full deployment,” he said. “I am confident that we are moving in the right direction with this approach and very much looking forward to the arrival of our new technology. Depending upon ordering timelines, installation scheduling and training, we should become fully operational in the next couple of months.”