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As APD Tests Out Body Cameras, State Eyes In-House Data Storage

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ACLU of Washington via Texas Tribune
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As the Austin Police Department preps to deploy some body cameras ahead of a July rollout, the state's mulling a statewide data storage system for the footage collected by the cameras.

Local police agencies outfitting their officers with body cameras may have the option to store their data with the state. On Monday, Dale Richardson, chief operating officer of the Texas Department of Information Resources, told members of the House Select Committee on Emerging Issues in Texas Law Enforcement that his agency was working on opening its state-run storage data centers to local agencies.

“As we know, law enforcement agencies and other emergency management organizations are faced with increased need for acquisition, storage and secure sharing of digital investigation data,” Richardson told the state legislators.

It’s unclear if the Austin Police Department would consider taking part in state-run data storage. The department has said that much of the nearly $3 million set aside in this year’s budget for a body camera program will be needed to fund storage of the video data collected by officers.

Legislators said that they had heard concerns from local agencies in their districts about the cost of data storage for body cameras. Richardson told lawmakers that the state could offer a competitive price – as long as a good number of agencies decided to opt-in.

“If we can leverage the economy of scale we have here, we can offer this as a shared service cheaper on a per-user basis to help offset some of those long-term storage costs,” he said.

Richardson said that the arrangement could amount to $50 per camera per month. According to the Associated Press, some plans run on a monthly basis as low as $20 per camera while others cost more than $100 per camera.

As long as local agencies have ports to upload the data, Richardson said, the state can handle the storage.

“That data can be replicated and backed up into the state’s data centers for any kind of disaster recovery or emergency backup purposes, and any storage that’s required to be tagged and committed for evidence can be stored up in a public cloud for long-term cost effectiveness,” he explained.

On March 8, APD wrote in a memo that it had zeroed in on a manufacturer for its officer-worn body camera program (and the department’s request for proposal included ideally finding a company that could also handle storage of the video data). Taser International Inc. will now begin a pilot program with the police department, and if the department is satisfied, it could soon bring a contract before City Council.

That timeline corresponds with one laid out back in December, stating a contract would be brought before Council sometime in May 2016.

This story was produced as part of KUT’s reporting partnership with the Austin Monitor.

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