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Body Cameras Do the Job

Body cameras are cheap; maintaining the data is much harder

In the past few weeks, big news stories have come out of New York City and Ferguson, Mo., that have been both sad and illuminating. Tragic events in these cities, both at the hands of police officers, have made us reconsider our thoughts on racism and the nature of policing in American society.

They have also led to an increasing insistence on more video surveillance, particularly the use of body-mounted cameras worn by police officers. Such cameras would record everything the officer says and does, at least within the view of the camera’s lens.

We have covered such topics already in Government Video, both in the magazine and on our website. For example, our April 2014 issue had a feature article on police cameras, including the use of Google Glass by the police department in Byron, Ga. A few days ago, I posted an article on the use of body cameras by police in Post Falls, Idaho. In November, news agencies report that President Obama has requested $263 million for police body cameras and training.

Surprisingly, the cameras themselves are not expensive. However, the camera itself is just a small fraction of the cost necessary to outfit police with this technology—storage, management and access to video collected by police is what will take the most cost and effort.

Let’s do a little arithmetic: Start with 100 police officers, each with a body camera that generates 2 GB of data per day. Even if nothing worth noting happens on a given day, the video from each officer needs to be stored for a period of time to be sure there are no claims or demands for review. Police management may want to keep the files simply for management review purposes, anyway.

That adds up to 200 GB per day and 6 TB per month. You can walk into a retail store and buy a 3 TB drive for $120, but an off-the-shelf consumer-quality drive will not be sufficient to store video as important as these files—someone’s criminal guilt or innocence may literally be stored in the bytes, and that means we must be reasonably diligent with how we store and manage the video.

Compared to the actual cameras, storage, management, archiving and access protocols to police video are going to be much more expensive and demanding components in the signal chain for body cameras. Perhaps the good news is that the early feedback from police organizations that use body cameras is that they generally do exactly what we want them to do: Eliminate the “I said/you said” nature of so many police interactions with the public.

Let’s hope that we see more body camera use, combined with effective policies to store and manage the tsunami of data.

GV EXPO 2014

We had a great time at the recent Government Video Expo in Washington, some of which you can already read about on our website ( For example, you can read about our 11 Salute Award winners, as well as what several exhibitors showed.

In next month’s issue, we will cover the GV Expo in much greater detail, including lots of photos from the floor of the show. If you weren’t at the 2014 GV Expo, perhaps we will see you in 2015.

See you next year!