5 Questions You Need to Ask About Body Camera Technology

June 15, 2015

John Miller, Senior Consultant, Sophicity

This article is posted with permission from Sophicity’s CitySmart blog and shares non-technical, municipal-relevant insights about critical technology issues, focusing on how technology reduces costs, helps better serve citizens, and lessens cybersecurity risks. Sophicity is solely responsible for the article’s content.
This article originally appeared on Sophicity's CitySmart blog.

As body camera technology becomes more talked about and implemented in cities, it’s easy to focus only on the actual body cameras. But similar to buying and implementing any shiny new toy—whether it’s new software or buying new computers—the purchase of a new technology that’s integrated with an existing poor technology infrastructure will only lead to frustration and risk.

A recent article in GovTech talks about this issue from a cloud standpoint and brings up some important points. But for small and medium cities with few staff and limited information technology resources, we feel there are some higher-level, more basic questions that need to be asked.
  1. Where will you store your body camera data? Just think about the hours and hours of video footage coming from cameras that will be recording during the entire shifts of multiple officers—24/7. If you think normally storing large videos is difficult or expensive, just imagine this data explosion. Luckily, the cost of data storage has come down significantly in the past few years, but that means you need to shop around for a more inexpensive and scalable solution if you haven’t explored your data storage needs in quite some time. If you’re storing data onsite right now, you may want to consider more economical solutions like a data center or a cloud service that others manage for you.
  2. How will you manage, retain, and dispose of the data? The answer to this question involves a full understanding of the law, regulations, and your own internal policies along with using technology to make this data management as easy as possible. Work with IT professionals who understand data and information retention policies so that you keep and dispose of video footage in a timely yet legal manner. You never want to be placed in a situation where you “lost” data or deleted it before you were legally allowed to do so.
  3. Who gets access to the data? This video footage will be some of your city’s most private, sensitive public safety information. Security and authorization will become more important than ever. You need to be clear on who can authorize specific data, and that authorization process needs to be easily manageable. Weak passwords, poorly physically secured rooms, or everyone in a department or office getting admin access is not acceptable with this kind of information. Security measures also need to counter the chances of people hacking into your servers or snatching information away on thumb drives in order to access this video footage.
  4. How will the video footage be accessed? Obviously, searching through hundreds or thousands of hours of video footage is a formidable challenge if you have shoddy ways of storing the data. A good data storage system will allow for clear labeling, user-friendly searching (like how you search for documents on your computer), and ways to search within videos to view and collect smaller clips within larger amounts of video footage. When evaluating body camera technology, make sure you understand how a police officer would search for, locate, and retrieve specific video footage—quickly.
  5. How will you back up your body camera video footage? We recently wrote a much longer article about this specific issue, but it’s worth reiterating that backing up your data is essential for information of this caliber. From a server failure to a full-on disaster like a tornado, you need to make sure none of this video footage is lost. Test your data backup and disaster recovery at least quarterly to ensure that it’s actually working. Offsite data backup storage has become relatively inexpensive, and there are many cloud solutions available that also ensure the highest security—such as encrypting your data while it’s in transit.
It’s great to get excited about body camera technology, and it’s less exciting to think about your boring, backend information technology. But without the right data storage, retention policies, security, management, and data backup plan in place, your body camera technology investment could become a gigantic waste or risk a legal disaster. Body cameras are another sign that technology is accelerating at light speed—so make sure your information technology is keeping pace.

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