Louisville Metro Police is on track to putting body cameras on some officers this summer.
Earlier this week, Louisville Metro Police leaders “made a recommendation to our purchasing unit” for the cameras and related software for data storage, said Major Robert Schroeder, commander of the LMPD administrative services division, which oversees areas like records and technology for the department.
The department has considered purchasing the cameras for nearly two years, officials told WFPL in December.
The purchasing process is still ongoing, Schroeder said, and he declined to say which vendors is being recommended to provide the cameras and software. The recent vendor recommendation comes after requests for proposals were sent out late last year.
Each interested vendor presented their product and department officials conducted “physical tests of the cameras” before the purchase recommendations were made, Schroeder said.
Schroeder said police officials are still working to finalize the cost of the cameras and related software.
“One of the big things we don’t know for sure is what storage will look like,” he said. “We can make some models on what other agencies have done, but we don’t know what it is going to look like with our specific policy, in our specific city, the way our officers are going to use the cameras.”
Police expect data storage to be the costliest part of putting body cameras on officers.
Cities similar in size to Louisville can spend $3 million on data storage alone, said Phil Russell, a police spokesman. That could be up to five times the cost of the cameras.
Added personnel costs are also expected, Schroeder said. The department may add as many as four civilian positions to oversee the data that will come from the cameras, he said.
Other challenges associated with body cameras—such as how long data is kept and policies regarding when and where the cameras are turned on to record— are issues that police “cannot afford to get wrong,” Russell said.
Schroeder said department officials are looking to store data internally, perhaps via a cloud storage format.
“The main goal of the software RFP was to be able to house the data ourselves,” he said. “That frees us from being tied to any vendor in the future.”
Length of data storage also remains in limbo, Schroeder said.
“It really depends on what specific type of video you are talking about,” he said.
For instance, state law requires evidence pertaining to DUI charges to be held for at least six months, he said. Certain misdemeanors and felonies could require data be held for five years.
Footage of standard traffic stops would likely be under direction of state archive laws, requiring to be maintained for 60 days, he said.
As for body camera policy, Schroeder said the department has “a fairly good draft policy worked out.”
“We are still working with the county attorney, commonwealth attorney to finalize some of those aspects, but I think we’re pretty solid where we are at with the policy,” he said.
Schroeder said the current draft policy will require officers to turn the cameras on during “anything you would consider a law enforcement action,” such as traffic stops, pedestrian stops or domestic violence responses.
He also acknowledged that privacy issues must be taken into consideration when dealing with body camera footage.
“And to be honest, there’s not a lot of guidance,” he said, regarding privacy. “Our take on it at this point is we can record where ever we have a lawful right to be, but we don’t necessarily think your neighbor has a right to see what’s in your house, unless there is a compelling interest.”
Kate Miller, a program director for the ACLU of Kentucky, told WFPL in December that holding police accountable and ensuring people’s privacy requires a “unique balance.”
“There are a lot of challenges when it comes to implementing this technology,” she said. “They need to make sure that folks’ privacy are not at risk.”
Disciplinary action for officers who fail to turn the cameras on when required will be dictated by Conrad, Schroeder said.
“It will certainly be something we pay a lot of attention to,” he said. “It’s the same situation you have now with in-car cameras, there are requirements to turn those on during certain runs and when officers don’t they have to face the consequences.”
The first officers to be equipped with body cameras will be officers in the department’s 5th Divsion, which includes the Highlands and Clifton neighborhoods, Schroeder said.
These officers will be part of a pilot program that will start with just one shift then expand to the entire division, Schroeder said.
The pilot program will help officials ensure the “policies are in tune with the way we want to record, make sure the assumptions we made are true and look at the volume of video we are recording, that will be a critical component.”
The 5th Division officers are expected to be trained and equipped by June, Schroeder said. Nearly 1,200 sworn Louisville Metro Police officers will tote body cameras by 2016, officials said.
Schroeder said the position of the cameras is still being discussed. They could be positioned on the glasses, ball caps or shoulder.
“Basically anything above neck level, as close to the point of view that you can,” he said. “There are a lot of concerns, not only for quality of video but for safety of officer.”