Houston Police to Launch $3.4M Body Camera Program

Still to be determined is whether camera footage would be stored in house or via third party.

HOUSTON – The City of Houston has approved a $3.4 million contract to equip police officers with body cameras, but officials continue to deliberate how best to store video footage captured by the cameras.

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Houston will buy 4,500 cameras to equip officers across the city over the course of 12-18 months. But some councilmembers are wary of a plan to store the video on the city’s computer system, arguing an independent contractor should handle the video to reassure the public about its integrity, KHOU, a CBS-affiliated TV station, reports.

“Most other cities that are buying body cameras or body-worn cameras are using cloud storage,” said Mayor Annise Parker via KHOU. “But because we’re a big city with our own servers in secure locations, it tends to be a lot cheaper to do that.”

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HPD officials estimate outsourcing video storage and handling would more than double the cost of the program, adding another $9 million over the course of five years. But some councilmembers pointed out the city has encountered some expensive problems with its computer systems, most notably its problem-plagued municipal court computers.

“Servers are really expensive, but so is cloud storage,” Parker told KHOU. “But if we can cut a deal – because we’re a large city, we have a large volume of information that we’re going to need to store – if we can cut a good deal, we’ll go with the lowest price whether that’s internal or external.”

HPD is already storing an undetermined number of videos gathered over the course of decades, including an estimated 100,000 car and body camera videos officers have collected during the last five years, KHOU reports. The police department points out officers have routinely handled what it describes as “hundreds if not thousands” of videos recording everything from interrogations to surveillance camera images.

HPD’s draft policy spells out in detail when officers are supposed to turn their cameras on and off. Officers are allowed to view the videos to supplement a written report, but only after they’re downloaded.

“Other than that, they dock the cameras,” Parker said via KHOU.  “They can’t review it, they can’t erase anything.”

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