This article originally appeared on Sophicity's CitySmart blog.
Body cameras for police officers have quickly gone from an expensive novelty to something that cities need to seriously consider. Even the President is now placing pressure on cities and pushing for financial incentives to help pay for body cameras. A recent article from The Arizona Republic
points out that body cameras will actually become the norm within 10 years. Like it or not, these technology-intensive cameras will eventually become part of your public safety budget—if they aren’t being considered already.
While many articles focus on the cameras, the logistics, and the politics of body cameras, many gloss over the underlying technology. If you’re using, actively planning for, or discussing the use of body cameras for your police officers, then we want to offer up a few questions you need to consider that are easy to overlook.
- Are you able to back up your data and recover it in case of a disaster? You should be backing up your data anyway, but it becomes even more important to recover from a disaster with all body camera footage data intact. This means a form of onsite backup that provides at least hourly snapshots of your data for quick recovery (in case of a server failure) and offsite backup that ensures you can recover your data in case a fire, flooding, tornado, or other disaster hits your city. Explore cloud solutions that offer unlimited offsite data backup storage under a set monthly cost. Otherwise, your costs could skyrocket out of control if you pay by the gigabyte or have caps to your current data backup storage.
- Is your data encrypted and secure? You absolutely don’t want people hacking into police footage from body cameras. This is a good time to review your security. Your body camera data needs to be encrypted onsite, offsite, and while in transit between machines (such as uploading or downloading information). That way, the information will be useless to hackers if they happen to access it. Then, you need to make sure that your network security or cloud provider security follows best practices and is monitored and maintained by experienced IT professionals.
- Do you have clear data retention policies that are easy to follow? A modernized storage system can help you store, archive, and find data easily. It helps when your storage repository can help you automate some of the more tedious aspects of retaining and deleting data according to the law. Body camera footage will be requested and demanded by people when a sensitive case arises, and you don’t want to be caught without data that you should actually have on hand. At the same time, you want to clear away as much data as possible if you’re not legally required to keep or store it.
- Do you test your ability to retrieve and successfully back up your data? Even given the precautions above, you cannot assume that everything is working properly. You absolutely must test your data backup and security to make sure that you eliminate any severe risk of a data breach or data loss. We recommend testing your data backup and security at least quarterly to make sure that all of your body camera footage is recoverable in case of a disaster and meets information security best practices. It’s becoming less and less excusable (and more embarrassing from a legal and public relations standpoint) when cities claim that data is missing or unrecoverable.
While cities might fear the costs of having to invest in body cameras, the situation gives cities an opportunity to examine the state of their current technology. Many of the questions above don’t just apply to body camera data. Data backup, disaster recovery, record retention, data storage, encryption, security, and testing come into play with all city data and information. Luckily, many of the investments needed are more cost-effective than ever.