Body Camera Program Could Cost Around 5 Million in First Year

first_imgBaltimore City’s body camera work group listens to a presentation from Officer Aaron Waddell of the Laurel Police Department. (AFRO/Photo by Roberto Alejandro)Equipping Baltimore’s police force with body cameras would cost approximately $5 million in the first year, according to initial estimates. The city’s work group on police-worn body cameras is currently working to formulate specific policy recommendations that could change the estimate significantly, depending on a number of factors.According to a rough initial estimate by the Bureau of the Budget and Management Research (BBMR), the cameras alone could cost about $2 million, with another $2 million and change to store all the data, regardless of whether the city decides to store the data on a cloud-based service, or build their own data retention infrastructure.Officer training and the staff necessary to oversee the program are expected to add about $841,479 in additional costs.“[BBMR’s] response was based on a very preliminary cost estimate,” said Kirsten Silveira, a budget management analyst with BBMR and a member of the work group. “We are involved in the working group to gain a better understanding of the potential policy and, in turn, costs associated with implementing a body-worn camera program in Baltimore.”The type of camera system the city decides to adopt could decrease or increase the initial estimate. The initial estimated equipment cost of $2 million was based on the average price of the various body camera systems available. The type of storage the city decides to use, as well as the minimum length of time the city decides all videos must be kept for, will also affect the initial estimate, among other considerations.Whether these costs will have to be absorbed by the city remains to be seen. The state also has a body camera work group, being overseen by the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, which is scheduled to make recommendations to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the House Judiciary Committee by Dec. 1. If the General Assembly moves quickly with legislation, it is possible that funding from the state may be available, defraying any costs to the city of implementing a body camera program.To put those numbers in context with respect to the city’s budget, $5 million represents about 0.2 percent of the city’s $2.47 billion operating budget, and 1 percent of the Baltimore Police Department’s current $444.4 million budget.On Nov. 18, the city’s work group held its second meeting and heard a presentation from Officer Aaron Waddell of the Laurel Police Department, which implemented a body camera program almost two years ago.“Initially the officers felt like it’s somebody looking over their shoulder, but I think the officers have all seen that we’ve been helped by this many, many times,” said Waddell, when asked how officers in his departments felt about the body camera program. “This is very useful for us. I don’t even feel comfortable to be on the street without my camera. I would prefer to have my camera with me at all times.”While cameras have been touted principally as a potential benefit for police-community relations, it may be that the benefits to police work itself—the video and audio recordings provide a great evidentiary benefit, can be used in training officers, and obviously document interactions with the public should a dispute about officer conduct arise—will eventually lead to their broader adoption, both in the city and in the state.Attorney James Benjamin Jr., one of the co-chairs of the city’s work group, told the AFRO that while he does not have an exact date for the group’s final report and recommendations, he is looking to meet the mayor’s requested deadline for a report sometime in early 2015.“We’re working very hard, and we understand the importance of this issue, but in order to be able to get it right, to be able to fully vet it, that’s what we’re going to do and look to have it to the mayor as soon as possible,” said Benjamin. [email protected]last_img

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