LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Police Department has tested two types of wearable cameras this year and is now testing a third, although there’s no budget for the cameras and no timeline for when — if at all — a system would be purchased.
And the department has much more to consider — including privacy issues, public records requests, legal challenges and limited digital storage space — before it decides whether to purchase wearables for its officers.
Since August, various officers have been outfitted with a test unit from one of the three vendors on tap “to see how they perform with their specific job function,” department spokesman Cpl. Paul Mouton said Thursday.
Officers at present are sharing a body camera from a company called Safety Vision, Mouton said. The company’s Prima Facie Body Camera can record audio and high-definition video with a 120-degree view, according to the vendor’s website. The units run at $579 apiece.
Mouton said the department already has tested Panasonic’s Arbitrator 360-degree HD, a full-range “evidence capture solution” that records a 360-degree image through an integrated, 180-degree wearable camera and a multiview, in-car camera system, according to Panasonic’s website. It’s unclear how much that system costs.
Officers also have tested a body camera made by Taser, Mouton said. A single unit runs for about $399, according to Taser’s website.
But other issues may delay, or even nix, the project.
Mouton cited the Seattle Police Department, which was entering testing phases for a wearable camera program set to outfit 1,000 officers by 2016. That plan was halted after a resident filed a public records request for all the video recorded daily by officers.
“Those are the kinds of issues we’re gonna have to look at,” Mouton said.
Another consideration will be how and where to stow the mounting evidence.
Current policy for the department’s in-car camera system requires footage to be stored for 30,000 days — or a little more than 82 years — for homicides and rapes. OWI and narcotics arrests made during a traffic stop have to be stored for 10 years.
Lafayette Consolidated Government already reserves about 12 terabytes of space for the Police Department to store its recordings, and the department has already used up about 7 terabytes in compressed files, Chief Information Officer Kevin Samples said.
And that’s before the department starts storing video from a 50-camera neighborhood system set for installation by 2016.
“It’s going to be very expensive as far as trying to retain that information,” Mouton said.
Should Police Chief Jim Craft decide to move forward with a wearable camera system, he’ll have to approach the Lafayette City-Parish Council for funding. It’s unclear at this point if that would happen before or after the next budget cycle, Mouton said.
District 4 Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who’s the council liaison to the Police Department, was not available Thursday afternoon for comment.
The council approved $700,000 this year for the $1.4 million neighborhood camera system. Police tested some of the potential cameras this year during Festival International de Louisiane.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.