MNPD demonstrates new police body cameras ahead of program launch

Posted at 1:19 PM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 19:29:07-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Officials with the Metro Nashville Police Department showcased the much-anticipated police body cameras and in-patrol car systems to the public.

The showcase of body cameras was held during a specially called meeting at the Music City Center Tuesday afternoon before the pilot program launches in two phases, one starting sometime next month.

MNPD will also have a police car fully equipped with the new camera system supplied by WatchGuard on display in the exhibit hall. Among some of the officials who will be a part of the event are Chief Steve Anderson and Lt. Blaine Whited, who was recently appointed to oversee the program. This is the time for police to answer any questions on how the cameras will work and how they will be used in the field.

The plan to hold a public event to highlight the technology, discuss safeguards and mention ways it would protect privacy was recommended by a group of experts using body cameras in their department from across the country. They met with several local agencies on how the cameras would be implemented last month.

Police said they will begin by deploying 23 body cameras and 23 cameras installed into patrol cars. Officers will perform a check for any issues with the camera before beginning each shift. It will then be placed on the front of their uniforms with no obstruction from any other clothes or gear.

The cameras will be activated for any investigative or law enforcement activity including a dispatch to an emergency, traffic stop, pursuit, arrest, etc. And it is up to the officer whether or not the activate the camera, meaning they will not be activated for an entire shift.

They plan to have the DUI and Traffic Enforcement Unit to test the new network, which required testing the ability to upload footage through a wireless connection. The same units will also have the upgraded in-car camera systems.

The next step is equipping all eight police precincts with the cameras by May. Mayor John Cooper said in December that it will deploy an additional 20 cameras in “beta” for three months to determine total costs and tweak operations.

Getting to this point has taken years in Nashville with talks going through two different administrations. The city's recent budget issues only made matters worse despite former Mayor Megan Barry's administration setting aside $15 million to deploy body cameras in 2017. Server storage and the ability to upload videos proved to be additional obstacles that needed to be addressed.

There were concerns from Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk on the total price tag, estimating it could cost the city $36 million per year. However, experts who were in town last month thought the price estimate was very high nor did not believe it would take a large staff to operate the program.

Frustrations from community advocacy groups only intensified following two high-profile officer-involved shootings.

Last month, Representative John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) proposed legislation that would require the full implementation of body cameras by early 2021.

Anyone who wants to see the camera demonstration can visit Exhibit Hall A on the third floor of the Music Center from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m.