Virtual Citadel for Law Enforcement

The costs of police body cameras data storage is skyrocketing.

The use of body cameras for police departments is no longer an option, it’s an expectation. In the wake of the widespread adoption of body-worn cameras, many major cities are expressing concern over their IT infrastructure. Most agencies that are planning to deploy a police body camera program do not have the pre-existing capabilities to store and manage the flood of digital evidence that body cameras bring. It is important to make an informed decision when selecting a police body camera system, and in particular, when comparing on-premise and cloud storage solutions.

There are five areas that are critical for any command staff should explore when deciding where to store their agency’s digital evidence These areas include security, scalability, time to deploy, maintenance, and costs. While the first four areas are important to consider, it’s the cost of video data storage that can be a major stumbling block in deployment of a body camera program. Unfortunately, many customers only understand the scale and cost associated with video storage after they have selected and deployed a system. In many cases, the cost of storage can outweigh the cost of the rest of the system and exceed the planned budget.

Video is a known data hog. Police body camera video data storage can run into the hundreds of terabytes. The annual cost of storing such vast amounts of data can be millions of dollars.

The body camera program usually consists of three components:

  • Police body cameras and software, called digital evidence management solution (DEMS), to process and maintain camera videos.
  • Video data storage, which can be on premise or a remote cloud solution.
  • Bandwidth, or the size of the internet pipe, required to upload the video from the cameras to the external cloud storage.

Note: On-premise storage solutions utilize an internal IT department network, thus not requiring internet/bandwidth.

How to manage you Police Body Cameras

There are a variety of police body cameras and DEMS software manufactures currently on the market.

According to research most officers record 60 to 90 minutes of video per day.  Officers only activate their police body cameras when they believe they need to such as during a traffic stop or when confronting a suspected criminal. However, these daily video collection produce vast amounts of data.  In addition to this vast sea of the, the metadata to track and manage the video clips for retention and chain of custody purposes must be accounted for. Traditionally, data storage is a technology issue and it’s one that IT departments try to address in the most cost-effective manner. However,  in the case of police body cameras, policy is inextricably linked to the question of storage. Data retention policies can play havoc with the portion of a budget that’s dedicated to storage.  Jurisdictions retention policy on non-evidentiary video vary greatly.  In Georgia, the non-evidentiary video is to be kept for 90 days, while the retention policy for evidentiary video is 30 months.   If a video becomes evidence in a court case, the retention requirements can be even longer. What if there’s an appeal in the case 10 years down the road?. What are the requirements and policies for handling those scenarios? The answers to these questions are unknown.

While a cloud storage solution has several advantages over the ‘do it your-self’ on-premise storage solution-such as elimination of IT costs and immediate deployment, it also has a number of disadvantages:

  • Loss of control over critical video evidence data vendors charge high recurring monthly costs.
  • Hidden costs -analysts expect monthly rates to rise, as they compare the police video storage business to cable subscription services.
    While the initial cable subscription is usually a great deal, once new services are added, rates climb.
  • Vendor lock-in-cloud storage and file management is a subscription based service. At the end of a contract term, the police department does not own neither software nor storage. There may be a substantial additional fee to transfer the vast amount of video data collected over the years from a cloud storage vendor to a new storage solution, as well as a cost of acquiring a new storage solution for this data.

With the changing demands for data retention times, increased device counts and higher resolution counts coming into play, a cloud-only model is not a sustainable option. A mix of on an premise and cloud or a hybrid solution, which is considerably less costly to deploy, is a better choice. Virtual Citadel offers a ‘turn-key on premise and cloud storage solution at a fraction of our competitor’s cloud storage costs.  Reach out to find out how we can help.