Covington police officers will soon be outfitted with ProVision body cameras.
The money was unanimously approved Monday night by the Covington City Council after Chief Stacey Cotton made the request for $60,840 to cover the cost of 60 cameras at $349 a piece plus Cloud storage of video at $55 a month per camera for three years.
“One of the biggest issues with the camera is the storage of the video,” Cotton said in an earlier interview. “You either buy a huge, expensive server and store it in house; or you pay a monthly fee to store it in the cloud.”
Storing information in the “cloud” is storing it on computers housed in massive warehouses all over the world. Cotton said it was more economical to store video that way rather than needing to install and upgrade technology as it changes and upgrades.
“I’ve wanted [the cameras] for a couple of years, but didn’t think the technology was there,” he said. “The cost for the cameras and storage has gotten cost-effective. The cameras used to cost over $3,000 each. Now they’re $350. Economically it makes sense to have them.”
The police chief said that many people assume events such as the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri were behind the request. “The perception is that body worn cameras are needed to keep a police officer honest, but I’d disagree.
“The reality is [the camera] backs up the good work a police officer does on a daily basis,” he said.
Dashboard cameras have already been in use since the early 2000s, “but it’s only there for traffic stops,” Cotton said.
Body cameras constantly record in 30 second loops, but once an officer turns the camera on, it preserves the previous 30 seconds while recording new material until turned off. If an officer is in uniform and on duty, he said, “they’re wearing the camera.”
Officers require no special training to use the camera. Though, Cotton said, there are policies and procedures that will go along with the cameras, like there are with dashboard cameras. “Because all officers at a scene will be wearing them, it gives multiple angles.”
“I’m excited about them,” Cotton said. “I think it will give us some great footage of police officers going out of their way to be guardians of the community.”
He said it would also help when a complaint about how an officer handled a situation was filed. “When you’re on the receiving end of a police encounter, you’re nervous or upset so you may not remember the sequence of events correctly. If they see the video and have a chance to review it, they’ll see the officer was being professional.”
Cotton said the videos can be used as a training tool, “especially when you see a situation evolve where the officer uses the proper tactics, an officer uses safety practices, or de-escalates a scene. You can show that to officers, especially younger officers coming out of the academy, to see how a veteran officer handles, say, a domestic violence situation.”
He said it could also be used to take witness statements at the scene, or record an officer’s observations at an accident or crime scene. That recording can be used to build a case or shown to a jury as evidence.
“Precedent has been sent to use video as evidence by in-car cameras,” he said.
According to Cotton, a new law was passed in Georgia that limited Open Records Act requests to those people directly involved with the situation. Fourth Amendment rights had been addressed with the use of dashboard cameras.
The cameras were made to withstand harsh conditions, Cotton said, “but just like all equipment, it can fail. That’s why we’re asking for 60 cameras, so if one breaks down, [an officer wouldn’t be without a working camera].”
He said different cameras were tested by the patrol unit and the ProVision cameras were judged to best serve the Covington Police Department’s needs.