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How the cloud helped police warm up to body-worn cameras

Colin Neagle | May 27, 2015
While the benefits of body-worn cameras for law enforcement have been well-known for years, cloud storage and security needed to evolve to handle all the footage.

In fact, the FBI announced in 2012 that any cloud service sold to law enforcement agencies must comply with the CJIS security requirements.

Of course, security isn't the only concern when considering storing video footage. While every agency implements its own procedures for filming officers' interactions in the field, the American Civil Liberties Union has urged police departments to implement "a department-wide policy that mandates that police turn on recording during every interaction with the public." PERF acknowledged that some agencies might embrace that approach, but pointed out that some encounters with the public require privacy, particularly discussions with victims or witnesses who may be less inclined to cooperate if their statements are recorded. The "more common approach" is for officers to only activate their cameras "during law enforcement-related encounters and activities, such as traffic stops, arrests, searches, interrogations, and pursuits," the PERF report reads. And in many cases, "policies generally indicate that when in doubt, officers should record," according to the report.

Regardless of the policy, agencies that use body-worn cameras are going to generate a lot of footage. The outdated processes of backing up footage on discs stored at a police department not only erodes the public's trust in such a program as it allows access to the footage it's also a drain on human resources and budgets.

"Prior to that, a police department had to hire staff, had to buy storage space, had to pay somebody to actually go in and physically manage and back up videos regularly, and I think you can imagine just how expensive and time-consuming that is," Ward says.

While the cloud has paved the way for the data-intensive process of managing these cameras, the technology still has room for improvement. Automatic syncing of video footage from the camera to the cloud sounds ideal, but it's simply not practical yet. With Vievu, for example, officers need to bring their cameras back to their department headquarters, manually connect them to a PC, and load the footage to the cloud storage system on their own.

Although the software is designed to prevent officers from tampering with the footage before storing it in the cloud, the process still leaves room for error. Policies may mandate that officers upload all of their footage, but that likely won't stop an officer with something to hide from destroying the device before their immortalizing any incriminating footage. And the fact that concerns over storage costs mean that many officers get to decide when to record what interactions could create an opportunity for a controversy.

If recent developments in law enforcement have made body-worn cameras a must-have, the technology has progressed to make them just useful enough for widespread adoption. The U.S. Justice Department recently announced a $20 million pilot program through which it will fund the implementation for dozens of law enforcement agencies, suggesting that this is becoming more of a reality than a trend in law enforcement. And, as Vievu's Ward sees it, all they needed was a safe place to store all the video.

"The biggest trend in my industry is the CJIS-certified Microsoft Azure cloud that we're working with," Ward says. "It's the game changer, and it's what's going to make everything change in the government sector."

 

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