Durham police ponder cost of outfitting officers with body cameras
Report says pilot project involving about 60 cameras would cost $750,000 in 1 year
Durham's police services board is considering the idea of outfitting its officers with body cameras in a pilot project, but it wants more information about potential costs before proceeding.
Roger Anderson, chair of the Durham Regional Police Services Board, said on Monday that he is confident that body cameras are needed but the technology poses problems to ensure it is effective and efficient.
"I think body-worn cameras are as important as in-car cameras. And we have to move down this road sooner than later," Anderson told reporters.
"I know in the U.S., I know in the U.K., I know in the Ukraine, and other places around the world, they use these things. If they are all having the same administrative nightmare that this appears to be, then we have a big problem down the road. It means either hiring more officers or maybe not looking at body-worn cameras, just because of the administrative costs."
Anderson said, however, he is hopeful that Durham will proceed with what it calls phase four of its body camera project. The first phase involved preliminary activities, the second phase involved a feasibility study, while the third phase involves planning, communication and change management.
"It'll be better for the public and it'll certainly be better for the officers," Anderson said. "If there are problems we're going to see them live. It is a great way to ensure our officers represent our service the way they are supposed to."
'Valuable tool' comes with privacy concerns, extra costs
On Monday, Durham's police services board considered a report on body-worn cameras, prepared by Insp. Sean Fitzgerald and Acting Sgt. Jason Bagg, that indicated a rollout of about 60 cameras as part of the project would cost at least $750,000 for one year. Durham has about 870 officers.
The report says the cameras could be a "valuable tool" for the police but also present "significant challenges" in terms of technology, cost and expectations. The cameras also raise privacy concerns. Costs include training, IT support, video management, evaluation and storage costs, it notes. But it says the benefits are many.
"Research and experiences to date have shown some very positive outcomes in terms of force reduction, complaints reduction and for improving police accountability and legitimacy and community trust," it reads.
The report says if cameras were given to about 500 frontline patrol officers and supervisors, the cost would be nearly $24 million. Recurring annual costs for salary and lost patrol time would be $17 million, it says.
"This costing estimate is largely speculative, based upon data and experiences of the Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary Police Services" it reads.
The report notes that no cameras have been bought yet, and no decision has been made to deploy them.
According to the Durham Regional Police Service, Durham has learned from the Toronto Police Service that officers with body cameras would need technological support 24 hours a day.