5 questions answered about body cameras and police

What are they, how do they impact policing and who pays for the equipment?

Posted on Aug. 23, 2014 at 1:49 a.m.

1) What are body cameras?

Body cameras, or vest cams, are video and audio recording devices that can be attached to clothing or accessories.

Sold to law enforcement agencies by several security and self-defense companies, the cameras record police activity and interactions, which can potentially be used for future investigations or as evidence.

2) How many law enforcement agencies use them?

At this point, it’s unclear.

However, security company TASER International Inc. has sold a line of their body cameras to more than 1,200 police agencies across the country in the past several years, the company’s chief executive recently told the New York Times.  

3) How does this impact policing?

While there isn’t a whole lot of data out there yet about the impact of vest cams, many supporters point to the Rialto Police Department in Rialto, Calif., as a success story.

A year after implementing body cameras, the department saw an 88 percent reduction in the number of complaints filed against officers, and a 60 percent drop in the use of force by officers, according to ABC7

4) How much does the equipment cost?

It depends.

Police in Daytona Beach, Fla., currently have 75 cameras they bought for about $950 each, KHON2 reports — but the costs don’t stop there.

After the initial cost of the equipment, departments must figure out how they’re going to store the data. Daytona Beach police pay $23,000 annually for video storage, according to KHON2.

But prices for this kind of equipment seem to be dropping as demand rises.

Security companies Vievu and TASER International Inc. are now offering body cameras for $300 to $400 each thanks to a spike in competition, according to a recent article by the Wall Street Journal.

5) Who pays for the vest cams?

When Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore suggested the possible addition of vest cams to the Elkhart City Police Department, he referenced the city budget as a source of funds to pay for the equipment

“We can find the money,” he said.

Some law enforcement groups have successfully acquired grant money to pay for similar equipment, including police in the Town of Daleville, Ind., in Blytheville, Ark. and in Sarasota, Fla.  

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