- Associated Press - Thursday, October 8, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Baton Rouge Police are getting body cameras as part of a 10-month pilot program.

The city police department has received 100 body cameras that will be issued to every uniform patrol police officer in the First District, which covers the highest crime area in the city.

The cameras were rolled out Wednesday at a meeting of law enforcement and citizens who will be subjecting camera policy to an ongoing review. The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1WO7e6y) ultimately, law enforcement leaders hope to outfit all of the department’s roughly 400 patrol officers with the surveillance equipment.

The clip-on cameras will be worn on the officers’ torsos and are to be turned on every time an officer has interaction with a member of the public.

The department has spent $105,000 for the equipment which includes 100 terabytes of server space to hold video footage and docking stations for each of the cameras, which will automatically upload recordings to servers at the end of each officer’s shift.

The cameras have a battery life of five hours of continuous recording. However, Lt. Steve Wilkinson, who is overseeing the program, said it’s unlikely officers will record for anywhere near that length of time on a daily basis.

The cameras will supplement the police department’s dash-cam program which it’s had since 2007. The 400 police car cameras have produced about 1 million videos to date.

Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle, who pushed the department to implement the body camera program, said she would prefer to see camera technology that automatically pulls the 30 seconds before the button is pushed to the recording. Such technology is used in Fresno, California, she said.

New Orleans Police Department spokesman Tyler Gamble said their body cameras have the same ability.

Marcelle said she wanted to see that feature because if an officer turns it on during an altercation, that 30 second window could contain important details.

The company providing the equipment, L-3, does not offer that feature. L-3 was selected in part because its technology integrates with the infrastructure city police already has in place for its car camera program.

The body cameras also lack night vision.

But former police chief Jeff LeDuff, who sits on the committee, said camera technology that is aimed, in part, to hold officers accountable should match what can be seen by the human eye because the video feed will offer the most realistic portrait of what an officer sees.

There are still several unanswered questions about the cameras and how footage will be used and stored.

The biggest unknown is how much the program will ultimately cost. The pilot program is being covered, so far, with reserve funds from the police department. But it’s unclear if more funds will be needed for additional server space.

The department also doesn’t know how many hours of footage they have capacity to store, although servers will automatically save footage onto disks to clear space.

What they do know is that scaling the program to the entire department will require more money than they have. They’ve been trying to identify federal grants to support the program but have so far been unsuccessful.

The New Orleans Police Department uses TASER for its body camera program, and has budgeted a total of $2.7 million over five years for a total of 620 cameras plus software.


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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