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Pleasant Grove police turn off their body cameras

(KSL TV)


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PLEASANT GROVE — The Pleasant Grove Police Department was one of the first police agencies in the state to equip all of its officers with body cameras.

But for now, all the cameras have been turned off.

Chief Mike Smith says all the video recorded by his officers has created a storage and manpower problem.

"Most of it boils down to, we're having a problem with our storage capacity, we need a management system, a redaction software, and just the effects it's had on our staffing, on manpower issues," he said.

All 27 officers on Pleasant Grove's force wear a body camera. As of May 10, House Bill 300 requires all police officers with body cameras in Utah to have their cameras recording whenever they interact with someone in the field. Since an officer's job is essentially interacting with the public all day, Smith said officers who work 10- to 12-hour shifts are having to take an hour out of their day just to download and tag video.

"That's really where we saw a huge spike that crashed our database," Smith said.

In some cases, multiple officers called to a scene were all recording the same event, and everyone had to download the same call, quickly filling up storage space.

In addition, Smith said the department's records clerk was getting inundated with requests for video.

"And something we didn't anticipate was our prosecutor's office getting inundated in the same way," he said.

Smith said he still believes body cameras are a great police tool, which is why he jumped so quickly to equip his officers with them. But now there are budget, storage and software issues, as well as a re-examination of how the cameras are used in general, that he believes need to be addressed before they're turned back on.

Right now, Smith said there isn't money in the police budget to fix the problem. He has been seeking grant money as well as meeting with body camera companies.

"We're seeking a solution that's all encompassing," he said.

But Smith said in talking to a friend who is a police chief in a neighboring state with a department about the same size as his, it costs about $75,000 annually to do all the things with body cameras that Smith also wants to do.

"That's an officer. That's an employee's wages right there. So you start getting into a little bit of, 'I'm low on manpower. I definitely need more officers.' So I'm going, 'Boots on the ground? Officer on the road? Or camera?'" he said.

Smith said he has received a lot of feedback from the public offering possible solutions to the body camera issue. But the answer isn't as simple as putting the video in a Dropbox or on iCloud, he said.

"The video becomes a piece of evidence and we have to treat it like evidence and ensure that the right security measures are in place to protect that evidence. And just dumping it onto a cloud base system doesn't satisfy those things," he said.

"I don't think you're going to find many police departments that are against body cameras. It's just, we hit a wall when it comes to these prices. And I think the expectation of what our society wants and where technology is, has not quite reached the same level."

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Pat Reavy

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