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The Data Challenge of Body Cameras

by Tammy Batey – August 2, 2017

More body cameras for law enforcement officers? Or data storage for previously collected cam footage? Body cameras and dash cameras increasingly play a vital role in law enforcement but agencies face tough choices as a result.

Requirements for how long law enforcement agencies keep footage from body cameras and dash cams present a huge – and expensive – data storage challenge. Case in point: Sedgwick County, which must keep all footage involving felony crimes for 25 years. I recently read a KAKE ABC news story that examined this challenge.

“Within the next year or two, we could be looking at putting 40 terabytes a year on our servers,” said Lt. Lin Dehning, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “So that’s a lot of data that we have to store and store it for 25 years.”

“We want that video, we need that video, but it’s really hard to pay for that video,” said Col. Brenda Dietzman, Undersheriff at the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.

Many people want body cameras. In fact, a 2016 Pew Research report found that two-thirds of police and 93 percent of the public believe body cameras should be used to record interactions between officers and members of their communities.

The body camera data challenge

Sedgwick County isn’t alone in struggling with the reality of storing body cam-generated data. I remember reading an Associated Press article last year about two police departments that got rid of their body cameras because of the cost of storing the data from the cameras.

Clarksville, a small town in Indiana, began using body cameras in 2012 but ended that program because a new law required that the data be stored for 190 days, more than six times longer than the initial timeframe. Neighboring Jeffersonville eliminated its body camera program, too.

"This has really hit us hard,” said Clarksville Chief Mark Palmer. “That's not the kind of thing we budgeted for when we set this year's budget in place.”

Stories like these two offer a window into law enforcement’s struggles to cost-effectively store data. It also illustrates secondary storage considerations that are important for anyone in any data-generating industry.

Based on the recent KAKE ABC news story and last year’s Associated Press article, here are three questions to ask when contemplating data storage.

What's your data retention policy?

The Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office follows state of Kansas guidelines that data related to felony crimes must be stored for 25 years. But cities in Kansas can make their own policies and many city police departments in Kansas have guidelines to store data related to felony crimes for 10 years.

At least 17 states – California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia – have policies on how long police departments must keep body camera data, according to a January 2017 Urban Institute study.

Within your own organization, determining how long to store data helps you tailor your secondary storage approach. The first consideration is if your organization must abide by any regulatory requirements or client/customer agreements with regard to data. If not, your organization can establish internal guidelines based on:

  • How quickly does your organization’s data becomes irrelevant?
  • How easy or cost-effective it is to reproduce the data collected?
  • How frequently do business users restore old data?

What are your priorities beyond the initial investment?

The GCN article “The hidden challenge behind body cams - storage,” explores the data storage cost issue for law enforcement agencies. Medium-sized departments with 50 to 250 officers may have the hardest time implementing body cameras.

The demands for video storage can challenge police departments, which don't have enough space on servers or hard drives to store the additional data. Storing videos to meet state guidelines can require investing in servers.

“The demands for video storage are unprecedented for many police departments, which don't have enough space on servers or hard drives to store the additional data,” GCN article writer Scott McManus writes. “Storage costs can reach up to $2 million annually for a police department.”

But the long-term success of secondary storage goes way beyond the initial investment. Consider how you can best invest in data over years.That’s why Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud includes cost-effective on-premises data storage and optional tiering to cloud, making data storage more cost-effective as well as more agile.

Secondary storage should outlive the life of equipment. Igneous scales horizontally and, as part of our Capacity Forever, services, Igneous regularly replaces everything.

How much IT team time can you afford?

Besides an investment in servers, law enforcement agencies sometimes invest in additional headcount. While some of the reason for that is specific to law enforcement – additional staff to respond to public records requests or blur the faces of minors in videos to protect their privacy – one reason resonates with any organization – data storage management.

With Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud, Igneous manages secondary storage so IT teams at our customer companies can spend their time on other projects.

Zero-Touch Infrastructure™ ensures that IT doesn’t have to monitor, maintain, update, or troubleshoot your archives infrastructure. IT can create policies to automatically move data across primary storage, Igneous Storage, and public cloud. Backup-as-a-Service means Igneous handles all appliances, updates and remediation for your backups.

Learn more

Read how Igneous Hybrid Storage Cloud includes cost-effective on-premises data storage and optional tiering to cloud, making data storage more cost-effective as well as more agile. Download Igneous whitepaper “Secondary Storage for the Cloud Era” to learn more about the challenges of the growth in unstructured data and how to consolidate secondary storage in the cloud era.

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