Nashville has cut the budget estimate for body-worn cameras so that they can be fully deployed no later than February 2021, despite historic shortfalls in tax revenue.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper is saying Monday that the vendor, Motorola, has agreed to defer payment for two years.
“Since before entering office, I’ve supported body-worn cameras in Nashville and the need to invest in this vital technology the right way. Today, we are delivering on that commitment,” Cooper says in a statement.
The city has also reduced the annual cost of managing the video footage from an estimated $40 million to $2.1 million, primarily by reducing the necessary personnel from 200 to 16 people. Instead of redacting all the footage that comes in, viewing kiosks will be set up for attorneys and members of the city’s Community Oversight Board. It would also be released publicly if a court order requires it.
The streamlined process was recommended by the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance.
“They were able to do a review of our program, and their estimates were much lower than what the estimates that our court systems and district attorneys had originally predicted,” says Metro police Capt. Blaine Whited, who was put in charge of body camera deployment in January.
Expanded deployment of the cameras begins in July, outfitting 86 officers and 65 patrol cars in the West Precinct, which is the only precinct with the IT infrastructure to handle video collection. Officers drive into a wifi port and the video from their shift begins uploading. They’re required to stay until the process is complete.
The seven other precincts will get the necessary upgrades in the next six months to have body cameras on more than 1,300 officers and 734 patrol cars by February.
“An encounter with law enforcement is not something that any Nashvillian should worry about having to survive,” Council Member At-Large Sharon Hurt, who is black, said in a statement. “It’s no secret that Metro’s financial constraints are great, but Mayor Cooper has demonstrated through this effort, with IT infrastructure upgrades starting immediately and deployment rolling out in July, as a first step, that his commitment to create tangible change for our Black community is genuine.”
The latest development on the cameras follows three years of delays and course changes (timeline).
As recently as April, the mayor said a full rollout would not be possible because of pandemic-related budget problems. In February, Metro showed off the camera systems that were beginning field testing.
The city’s Community Oversight Board applauds the move toward immediate deployment as “a step in the right direction.” But activist Justin Jones, who has led some of Nashville’s recent protests against police brutality, called the announcement “too little, too late,” advocating that the city consider cutting funding for police.
This developing story was updated at 3:15 p.m. with additional context and quotes.