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Body Cameras for All! Does IT Make Sense?


Unless you have been hiding under a rock the last few months you most likely have heard politicians (like Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama) talk about body cameras and how all officers should wear one. The debate often goes straight to privacy, policy or procedure concerns. With those (political) issues aside, does a camera for all officers make sense from an IT viewpoint? Or asked another way – are law enforcement agencies equipped to store and manage body worn video and all other digital evidence like in-car, mobile video, audio files, images, and security camera footage?

It may be surprising to hear that not all agencies use in-car cameras, let alone body worn cameras. In 2007 Digital In-Car Video Recording Systems (DICVRs) were only used by an estimated 61 percent of departments which should be higher today but still isn’t 100%. Body-Worn Video (BWV) market penetration is significantly lower with an estimated 5-10% but this is about to change quickly. All you need to do is flip on the news or visit any major news site to see that.

Now, it’s one thing to want all officers to wear cameras, but what does that mean from an IT perspective? For now we won’t discuss the lengthy bid, RFP and integration process. Let’s first take a look at how much data one camera captures.

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You can see that in-car camera data rates range from .5 – 1 GB per hour while body worn range from 1.4 to 5 GB per hour. That’s 40-500% more data captured for body worn cameras. And those figures are for the source video file. You need to protect it somehow either through RAID, replication or erasure coding leading to a minimum of 40% more overhead for proper protection. So figure 0.7 GB on the low end (for a 320×480 in car rear cam) and 7 GB on the high end (for 1080HD body worn video) for fully protected storage of one hour of video.

From an IT perspective, a single hour is not too scary…. but there are roughly 750K sworn officers and those on patrol daily would be recording multiple hours of in-car on multiple cameras and multiple hours of body worn video per day. And if litigation success, training enablement and protection of officers and the public is driven by what “you can prove” then resolutions will continue to increase. The table above doesn’t include 4K video which would require 20 GB/hour compressed or 28 GB/hour!

Then there is evidence and retention rates and bandwidth limitations…. but I will save that for the next post. So based on the information presented so far, does body worn video for each officer make sense?

In upcoming posts I will look at retention rates, the compounding effect of evidence, give an example of the storage needs for a small to medium sized agency and discuss the technology needed to properly manage evidence learning from trends in other industries.

Adrian Herrera
Adrian Herrera

About The Author

Adrian "AJ" Herrera has over 20 years of experience bringing innovative storage, cloud and media software and services to market. With an MBA from San Diego State University and a BS in Information Systems from Chapman University, AJ serves as Caringo's VP of Marketing.

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