City leaders discuss implementing police body cameras

Posted at 11:56 AM, Oct 14, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-14 19:35:24-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Multiple city leaders gathered to discuss some of the concerns, costs and challenges of implementing police body cameras, and how it would affect departments in public safety.

District Attorney General Glenn Funk presented a report to council members, court officials, the public defenders office, Metro police and the Community Oversight Board. There are already plans in place to roll out the program by installing six body camera systems per day, with the priority on the Juvenile Crime Task Force and the flex unit.

This year, the city struck a deal with WatchGuard Video to supply about 1,500 police officers with body cameras, and install dash cameras on 870 patrol cars. The body-worn camera program received $3 million in the most recent city budget, although Chief Steve Anderson requested $4.6 million to hire 36 new employees and to help cover administrative costs to implement the program, including tech support and paying to store the video data. The city already set aside $15 million for the program back in 2017.

The report detailed what would be necessary to support the use and storage of the body camera footage. If the city had body cameras last year, there would be an estimate of over 53,000 hours of video based on the criminal cases.

According to consultants hired by DA Glenn Funk, that means the DA's office alone would need to hire 248 people. It could cost the city as much as $28 million to have enough staff to review and redact the videos in order to maintain several obligations including the safety of witnesses and victims and prviacy concerns. That's not including equipment, storage and software or the money meant for the clerk's office or public defenders office.

Funk also revealed the burden it would place on the criminal justice system

“When body cameras go on, they create evidence in this case, and that creates constitutional responsibilities for every institution in the criminal justice system,” said Funk.

He explained prosecutors have responsibility to redact videos. Judges and juries are impacted as well when determining cases that impact liberty - that could mean longer trials, longer court delays resulting in fewer cases being tried.

The cameras are long overdue for activists and other supporters who have called on the city for years to install them. Supporters say the cameras will help protect citizens in cases of officer misconduct.

The topic of police body cameras catapulted into the spotlight after the deaths of Jocques Clemmons and Daniel Hambrick, two African American men shot and killed by white police officers.

The cameras could also help officers because footage could more accurately paint a picture of an incident when it's under review.