Body cameras for police officers have been in the news a lot lately, but Provo wants to make sure it chooses the right system — for the right price — before putting them on every officer.
It will be at least mid-2016 before Provo officers all have body cams, and maybe longer. Mayor John Curtis said it won’t be in the upcoming budget (July 1, 2015–June 30, 2016).
“There are really tough policy issues we need to feel comfortable about,” he told the city council on Tuesday. “We want our residents to know we’re in favor of body cams. It’s a matter of making sure we have the right system and the right policies.”
The Cost of Body Cams
- $300–$1,000 per camera
- $100,000 per year for data storage
Provo police Lt. Brian Wolken said the department started testing body cams on officers about two years ago, and has tried nine cameras from different manufacturers. He said people often ask why they can’t just buy $100 cameras — but it’s not that simple. The cameras will need to be worn 10 hours a day, for at least 16 days every month. They’ll need to be water resistant and impact resistant, and easy to use. Cameras with those qualifications range from $300–$1,000 each. Then there’s the expensive part — data storage. One company offers a five-year contract for cameras and storage, for $500,000.
That amount — $100,000 per year — is roughly equivalent to hiring one new officer, Councilman Kay Van Buren said.’
Wolken said the city is looking into local data storage, which would save money. And the department is looking at federal grants that could help cover costs.
In addition to funding issues, the city needs to make sure it has privacy policies in place, Wolken said. Every time an officer turns on the camera, the video becomes a public record — and there could be recorded personal information that’s not related to a crime.
“We’re taking a cautious approach on body cams,” said Provo police Capt. John Geyerman.
A crime-fighting tool that may be in use later this year in Provo is a license plate reader. The device’s main use would be parking enforcement.
The system, which would be installed on a vehicle, records license plate numbers as the parking enforcement officer drives around the city. No more chalk on tires to enforce timed parking or permit-only parking areas.
With the possible expansion of permit-only parking around the city and with Brigham Young University charging for parking, Curtis said this technology is needed. And it would help with parking problems downtown.
“Downtown merchants just have been screaming for better enforcement,” he said.
BYU has been using the tool (it has two now) for seven years.
Geyerman said BYU’s parking citations quadrupled in the first two years it used the system, and then it got more compliance with parking rules.
Councilman David Sewell said the system could help with enforcing occupancy laws, too, because it would be easier to enforce parking standards.
There likely would be some proposed ordinance changes with the license plate reader, so that a first violation would be a warning, Curtis said.