Some Police Departments Drop Body Cameras, Citing Expense

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Police departments in at least two states that outfitted their officers with body cameras have shelved them, blaming laws requiring videos to be stored longer, which they say would significantly increase the cost, the Associated Press reports. About a third of the nation’s 18,000 police agencies are either testing body cameras or have embraced them to record officers’ interactions with the public. Departments in Indiana and Connecticut suspended programs this year after their states imposed considerably longer video-storage rules. Clarksville, a southern Indiana town just north of Louisville, Ky., began using body cameras in 2012 for its 50 full-time officers and 25 reservists. That program ended in June when Chief Mark Palmer pulled the cameras in response to Indiana’s new law requiring agencies using the cameras to store the videos for at least 190 days.

Palmer said his department’s video storage and camera maintenance costs were between $5,000 and $10,000 a year under its 30-day video storage policy. The law that took effect July 1 would have raised those costs to $50,000 to $100,000 for the first year, he said, by requiring videos to be stored more than six times longer. The adjacent city of Jeffersonville also shelved its 70 officers’ cameras for the same reasons, and other Indiana police agencies have delayed committing to the cameras while they monitor the law’s impact. Civil rights activists long have called for police officers to wear body cameras. Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union acknowledged that costs of operating body camera programs can be daunting. He is concerned that departments might use the costs “as a cover” to avoid the added layer of oversight the cameras bring.

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