Nashville police let city officials, residents and reporters got an up-close look at the department’s new body-worn and in-car camera system on Tuesday.
A couple dozen officers will begin using the devices next month in what’s being described as another “pilot” testing phase. It will be the third test run in a process that’s seen multiple delays over several years.
Police Chief Steve Anderson said Tuesday he has no question about the quality of the cameras. But the police and several other agencies want to learn what it will take to store and review large amounts of footage.
“We produce this video, but somebody else is going to be using it. The district attorney, specifically, the public defender, the criminal court clerk,” Anderson said. “So we want to, during this pilot program, see the type of video we produce, how much we produce, how much of it has evidentiary value.”
These “downstream” costs have led to competing estimates of the fiscal impact that body cameras will have on Metro’s budget. Anderson said the next few months should create an accurate expectation.
Police are beginning this round with 23 sets of Watch Guard cameras to be used by officers who focus on traffic and DUI enforcement. The system records simultaneously through on camera worn on the officer’s chest along with three cameras mounted to the patrol car.
Metro intends to deploy to more precincts in May.
“I think everyone in the city is excited to move ahead with an evidence-based way to test these cameras and start learning from that,” said John Buntin, policy director for Mayor John Cooper. “There’s broad support for this.”
The department is also testing a wireless uploading system for footage gathered during each shift and building a system for sharing to other agencies.
Police Capt. Blaine Whited is overseeing the camera program. He praised the cameras for their light weight and high “military grade” durability. The cameras record with a 130-degree wide lens.
The devices will begin recording during activities including traffic stops, pursuits and arrests. When officers activate their flashing blue lights, for example, the cameras will begin recording.
One feature of the cameras is a technology that’s meant to ensure that the beginning of an incident is recorded.
The way it works is that the cameras are technically on and capturing events at all time. If an officer hasn’t activated the camera, the footage is purged and overwritten every minute. But once the camera is activated, the prior minute is saved.