/Use of police cameras stalls as cities sort out legal, data issues

Use of police cameras stalls as cities sort out legal, data issues

In September, Clinton announced that it would spend $262,000 on 40 body cameras to equip its police officers. Chelsea Brannon, the city’s attorney, stated that the cameras would not be installed until the city has finalized its policies regarding data storage. Utility Associates Inc. has officers in Decatur and Mississauga. Clinton’s cameras look similar to a smartphone. They are carried in a pocket on the shirt. The camera activates automatically by radio signal when an officer opens the door to the squad car. Brannon stated that the city will follow the state archives department’s retention schedule for municipalities. These guidelines require local governments to keep non-investigative records such as video from the body or dashboard cameras, for 30 days. Investigative records must be kept for one year following the conclusion of a case. Ford Hayman, Clinton’s police chief, stated that body cameras can be a great tool for transparency. In today’s world, body cameras are a great tool for transparency. According to Hayman, it’s just another tool we have in our toolbox so that we can do our jobs and have the data backing us up,” Hayman explained to Mississippi Today. Backups of data can be costly and difficult. Evidence.com was created by TASER International. It makes stun guns, body cameras and other devices. The company costs $15-99 per officer per month. TASER’s storage grew from $6 million to nearly $40 million between the first and third quarters of 2014. Departments have been searching for cheaper alternatives to storing large amounts of data and the high costs associated with maintaining equipment. Clinton’s system uses a cloud-based storage solution that uploads to the camera’s WiFi network. The cameras are in high demand, and there have been questions about citizen privacy. This could create a legal problem. For example, officers may activate them during domestic violence calls. Some body cam software can blur out the faces of other people. These were the reasons Hattiesburg developed an ordinance to regulate the use of its body cameras. The 19-page draft policy was drafted by the ACLU of Mississippi. Ward 2 Councilwoman Deborah Delgado will introduce it on October 18. “Governments have used surveillance in the past to suppress free speech and intimidate leaders of political movement, as well as track individuals and their communities. In September, Delgado stated that such technologies are often used to target low-income communities and communities of color. Ben Logan, Tupelo’s city attorney, stated that he is nearing completion of an internal policy. It limits the officers’ discretion in recording interactions, addresses privacy concerns and protects footage from tampering. The footage will also be made available to anyone who files complaints. Logan wrote in an email to Mississippi Today, along with several other city officials, that the policy passed muster as a working document in the implementation of the new technology. However, the best is still the standard. We can get there with a little tweaking. This is new territory, so be patient and let’s not allow the news cycle to dictate good policy. Many jurisdictions have implemented this technology without sound policies. Sometimes, one without the other can make matters worse.” Similar issues are facing the United States. A Pew Charitable Trusts report published October 11 shows that only 21 states have laws allowing public access to body-camera data. Mississippi is not one of them. However, the public-records retention schedule for Mississippi Department of Archives and History includes both in-car and body-worn cameras. Since 2012, Rep. Deborah Dixon (D-Raymond) has introduced legislation to require officers to use body cameras. However, all of the bills have been stalled in committee. Broderick Dixon, Dixon’s son was killed in 2009 by an Alabama off-duty officer. We need justice to protect the rights of citizens in the United States. Dixon stated that victims deserve justice. Dixon believes that outside vendors should supervise the handling of the footage, rather than individual police agencies. Dixon plans to bring her bill back during the 2017 legislative session.