Law enforcement agencies, of course, aren’t the only organizations gathering data via video. Media outlets do, too. These outlets collect vast amounts of footage yet may only air brief moments during their broadcasts, which gives rise to public outcry and even violence. As such, risk managers encourage police departments to build strong relationships with local media and use these ties to educate broadcasters on what law enforcement does and why incidents occur.
A rapidly evolving situation can be confusing to someone who is not familiar with the training options that an officer is provided with, the hierarchy of the use of force, or the nature of handling someone who is unhealthy and overcome by drug use. If the media is educated, then they may be able to share more of the story on the air, which would help departments prevent members of the community from jumping to conclusions before the full story is communicated.
So how can law enforcement agencies come to terms with these days of data? While research reveals that no one has the perfect solution to creating affordable video data storage, many fruitful approaches exist. Companies in the marketplace provide the storage at a cost, though they may sell or lease the cameras and other supporting equipment at or below cost. The best analogy to compare this approach with is buying a new ink jet printer but with the ink refill cartridges costing more than the printer itself.
A more flexible option is the cloud, with data residing in a center somewhere on the planet. For law enforcement agencies that opt for the cloud, plan for the long term because this method becomes part of your permanent infrastructure. Cloud technologies also use some form of a wireless method to upload data in real time, which increases costs. Inflating costs further, law enforcement agencies should ideally have two forms of storage: a primary system and a secondary off-site system, such as a cloud-based service, to ensure that if a glitch occurs in one storage system, it is backed up elsewhere. Further, it is strongly recommended that storage occurs on United States soil/governance in order to prevent international political interference.
Faced with all these demands, police departments are increasingly turning to private, high-volume storage businesses such as Veripatrol, a cloud-based service owned by body-cam maker VieVu, and evidence.com, a similar service owned by competitor Taser International. Sydney Siegmeth, a Taser spokesperson, says that a video is uploaded to evidence.com every 1.6 seconds, equaling 2.1 petabytes (one petabyte equals a million gigabytes). For these companies, storage is becoming big business. In the third quarter of 2015, Taser saw $36.9 million in storage sales, up from just $5.9 million in the first quarter of 2014.
Examples of Costs
Pricing for Taser’s evidence.com cloud storage service ranges from $15 to $79 per month, per officer. Taser’s Officer Safety Plan, which automatically replaces old cameras every 2.5 years, costs $99 per month, per officer. VieVu sells its Veripatrol cloud service as a bundle priced at $55 per month, per officer. After purchasing an LE3 camera for $199, the VieVu Solution includes the Veripatrol secure file-management software and 60GB of storage, which can be increased for 12.5 cents per gigabyte per month. An onsite storage software bundle sells for $25 per month, per officer. VieVu pitches its video service as more compliant with policies of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Service, because it’s based on the Windows Azure Government cloud, which uses more advanced security and requires government audits.
But how do police departments manage such expenses? According to the International Business Times, while body cameras “may range in price from $300 to $800 per officer, [they] can cost hundreds of thousands more in monthly video storage costs spread over time. In San Diego, for instance, the police department recently purchased cameras for about $500 each, but will spend $1,495 per year, per unit, for video storage costs.” Compounding the problem, most departments don’t have in-house expertise or personnel to manage the operation. Grants are one solution to the cost challenge. Some jurisdictions supply grants that help law enforcement agencies solve their data management and storage requirements. For instance, the Office of the Governor in Texas makes available grants of up to $10 million. While grants don’t completely solve the problem, departments should search and try to take advantage of what is out there. Grant-writing services are also available in the event that a department does not have an in-house writer or someone who is able to take on the challenge.