Cost of data storage is a concern, Magnusson says

Havelock Police Chief David Magnusson is a believer in police body cameras and is looking into the possibility of getting them for his department.

“I think it aids the police in a variety of ways,” Magnusson said. “First of all I think it’s a safety issue. It’s good that they can be out there recording what needs to be recorded.”

Magnusson said there is really no different between car cameras and cameras on the officers themselves.

“It’s good in trial. It’s good on investigations, internal and otherwise. It’s good for training purposes, much like the car cameras,” said Magnusson. “There’s no difference except that the car cameras are mounted to a car and looking straight ahead, but the idea behind it is the same and I think you would be hard pressed to find any agency to step away from car cams.”

Magnusson said the cost of a body camera ranges from $100 to about $1,500. Havelock has 29 sworn officers, meaning the cost would be from $2,900 to $43,500.

However, Magusson said there are also costs associated with the storage of data. He said a similar-sized department in Kentucky pays $50,000 to $100,000 on an annual basis for storage because state law requires data be kept for at least 190 days.

“There’s just a lot of costs in it and that can break budgets,” Magnusson said.

He said the issue about storage and requests for release of the data create questions.

“I have some ideas on how long there should be retention for non-evidentiary type of footage, but the problem comes as to when we have to release it upon whose request,” Magnusson said. “There needs to be a better definition before we jump into it.”

Magnusson said some smaller police departments are hesitant about purchasing police body cameras, and others are suspending current body camera programs or going away from it. However, the Pamlico County Sheriff’s Office recently received approval to purchase 14 body cameras at a cost of $18,000 from the Pamlico Board of Commissioners.

“But make no mistake, I think it’s a very good thing,” said Magnusson. “It definitely safeguards the officers in many ways. Body cameras will never come back to haunt an officer unless he or she is doing something they shouldn’t be doing. I think that’s the best way to put it. It can only help the officer. It may even quell a situation when people know that they’re being filmed. They tend to be a little less boisterous in thinking they can get away with things when they know they are being filmed.”

The chief said he needs more information before he asks the Board of Commissioners for approval to purchase the body cameras.

“I would like to go that route ultimately and I think there is a lot of support in that,” said Magnusson. “It is a road that I would like to explore, but again, it comes back to budget and the budget costs that go along with it. We’ve just got to make sure that it’s cost effective in that it doesn’t break budgets or take away from other areas that are just as needed.

“I want to get facts and figures on what these costs can be. We’re not there yet.”