Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 1, 2015

Body Camera of evidence

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

On the City Council’s Tuesday agenda is an item to authorize the purchase of body cameras for Alameda’s police force. Given the recent attention around excessive use of force by police officers around the country, the movement toward more accountability is a positive step. Recently, Alameda settled a case of excessive police force and in that case the officer was wearing a body camera (not purchased by the police department but the video was submitted into evidence).

While the existence of body cameras alone will not magically eliminate excessive force cases automatically in the world, what it does is ensure that there is some record of an interaction that may be in dispute.

Conveniently, NPR just ran a story about Taser, the company that the City of Alameda is looking to source the body cameras from, although this particular story was about cloud based storage for the data collected from the body cameras.  From NPR:

But in the long run, the real money is in selling police a way to store all that video.

And Taser says it has a solution: At the end of the day, an officer unclips the body camera from his uniform and plugs it into a dock. From there, those videos are uploaded straight to Taser’s cloud service, called Evidence.com.

Traditionally, police departments have saved their videos to CDs, which get locked in an evidence room. But there’s so much police video now — body cams, dash cams, cameras in interview rooms.

The piece also mentions that Taser has been criticized for hiring former police chiefs in the past, but has now instituted a “cooling off period.”

Staff is arguing that going with Taser and their cloud storage system will reduce the need to have in house tech staff to manage the technology needs it would require to store the video in house, which makes sense because there was discussion at the budget meetings that the IT department is seriously understaffed and overworked.

Here’s the cost breakdown for the 80 cameras and the annual subscription fee for the cloud storage:

The total purchase price for this five year contract is $424,753. The Police Department will finance this purchase through TASER at zero percent interest for five years.
The first year’s disbursement of 173,329 will complete the acquisition of 80 cameras and will also encompass the annual fees for storing the Body-Camera data.

An annual fee of 62,856 for media storage will be disbursed in each of the subsequent four years of the Agreement. The total cost of this purchase by year is illustrated in the table below:

Year 1
$173,329
Equipment and media storage (tax and shipping included)
Year 2
62,856
Media storage
Year 3
62,856
Media storage
Year 4
62,856
Media storage
Year 5
62,856
Media storage
Total
$424,753
Equipment and media storage

The project will be funded with a combination of State COPs grant and departmental savings in the General Fund. Grant funding will cover the acquisition of the equipment of $110,473 in the first year. The remaining funds necessary to cover the entire cost of this purchase will be disbursed by transferring $314,280 in FY 14-15 departmental savings from the General Fund to the Equipment Replacement Fund. Although the full amount is available to cover the cost of the project, the City will be disbursing the payments to the vendor annually for the next five years as there is zero financing cost to the City.

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11 Comments

  1. It would be way better to lease the equipment, which will be out of date within a year…and will this become “public information” which journalists and others can acquire through the FOIA? Do the police decide when to activate the equipment and when to turn it off? Will it be used in disciplinary proceedings? Will it be examined before promotion? Will cameras be placed on police cruisers? and how come Alameda didn’t make the list of the 20 safest cities in the Bay Area as published in the Chronicle today?

    Comment by Breathless — June 1, 2015 @ 6:36 am

  2. 1. answer: because there are 20 safer cities. It’s relative. Doesn’t mean we are unsafe, unless being “minutes” from Oakland makes that automatic.

    This reminds me to ask when we are going to review the license plate scanners to see if we can sift out data on retention ?

    Comment by MI — June 1, 2015 @ 8:53 am

  3. If you can’t fight it, invest in it: From TheStreet:

    “We rate TASER INTERNATIONAL INC (TASR) a BUY. This is driven by multiple strengths, which we believe should have a greater impact than any weaknesses, and should give investors a better performance opportunity than most stocks we cover. The company’s strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its robust revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, good cash flow from operations, solid stock price performance and expanding profit margins. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company has had sub par growth in net income.”

    hope this stock is held by the portfolio managers of the police pension fund…

    Comment by vigi — June 1, 2015 @ 9:10 am

  4. “Given the recent attention around excessive use of force by police officers around the country,…”

    You should either drop the “excessive” or place an “alleged” in front of it.

    Comment by jack — June 1, 2015 @ 9:35 am

  5. Looking for the Chronicle list online, since you didn’t provide a link, I found this instead: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/The-30-safest-suburbs-in-the-Bay-Area-6289676.php#photo-5718983

    Do any of these Safe Suburbs have mandates to provide More Affordable Housing, with multifamily density bonuses driving development? (doubt it). Increased population density equals decreased safety. You can’t have it both ways.

    Comment by vigi — June 1, 2015 @ 9:53 am

  6. I’m sure Alameda DA has cleared this, but it has never been clear to the public about the handling, i.e. “the chain of evidence” that if approved, hands this aspect to a private third party. The chain of evidence is a crucial part of criminal investigations that clearly documents via a record of who has handled the evidence, how it is stored and if the evidence was processed, who did it, what was done, where it was done and how it was returned to safe storage. Placing video evidence into “the cloud” is something that I have a problem with, especially with third party processing. Certainly, local agencies do not have the capacity nor the funding to store massive amounts of video on a 24/7 basis – so I hope this is adequately addressed.

    Comment by Basel — June 1, 2015 @ 10:54 am

  7. What does it mean when the commenter in #5 concludes “you can’t have it both ways”? Of course you can. It’s a pretty well established principle in both scientific inquiry and in formal logical reasoning that what you CAN’T have is the conclusion of causality from a casually observed (but empirically untested) correlation. In plainer language – without more detailed analysis and investigation, what you CAN’T have the conclusion that “increased population density equals decreased safety”. At the risk of reading between the lines, I think the statement in #5 about “population density” is a poor screen for an ugly and pernicious underlying assumption about causality; specifically that the combination of affordable housing and multi-family housing cause a degradation in community safety. That’s a sentiment not substantiated by fact based analysis or empirical evidence. At best it’s a hypothesis for further investigation, and at worst a statement that reflects poorly on the charity, values and principles of the commenter. I hope I’m misreading of the comment.

    Comment by jordan — June 1, 2015 @ 11:13 am

  8. 6
    It’ll all eventually get to the No Such Agency (NSA).

    Comment by jack — June 1, 2015 @ 11:52 am

  9. #4. Amen to that Brother!

    Comment by Jospeh — June 1, 2015 @ 12:27 pm

  10. “empirical evidence” is by definition, “knowledge acquired by means of observation or experimentation”. I observe what these cities have in common, and it isn’t densely-packed affordable housing. It isn’t Transit-based development. In fact, if you read the article, the writer makes a more drastic observation:

    “As you might have guessed, many of the communities are affluent and predominantly white. (Hello, Atherton, Belvedere and Mill Valley.) But a few towns without million-dollar-plus median-price homes also made the cut”.

    That would imply affluent and white communities are safer than others. But there’s enough racism for this blog in the other thread already.

    Jordan, I am not being uncharitable. I am calling it as I see it, not the way it should be. You have not made a logical counterargument. Please provide examples; ie “empirical evidence” to support your statement “of course you can”. .

    Comment by vigi — June 1, 2015 @ 7:16 pm

  11. Can we wait and see what other cities try, to observe what works and does not work, to find out what legal perils are still untested, and learn from other’s experience and money, before laying out a lot of money for technology that may not even work right and will add privacy and security risks?

    Comment by AJ — June 2, 2015 @ 10:21 am


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