5 Unexpected Video Archiving Obstacles for Body Worn Camera Footage

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Matt Wood
Matt Wood, Network Infrastructure Consultant

Body worn video cameras represent one of the biggest public safety innovations during the last few years, and many cities are investing in this technology. In the past, we’ve talked about some of the expected obstacles of such a technology—especially the costs, the storage, and adhering to state records retention laws.

However, as we talk to police chiefs at many of the cities we serve, we’ve learned that many common but unexpected obstacles arise that take public safety departments by surprise. In this post, we talk about five of these unexpected obstacles and how you can maneuver through them.

1. Hardware, software, and systems not working together.

Once body worn video cameras are implemented, they involve a variety of technologies: the actual video cameras worn by police officers, the hardware used to store the data, computers used to view and access the data, the video software, and IT systems that ensure hardware and software runs properly.

This is a delicate dance that sometimes falls apart. Some integration problems may include:

  • Software not working with your current operating system.
  • Video file formats not compatible with software.
  • Data migration issues between systems.
  • Functionality failing (such as video recording or sound).
  • Lag times or freezing issues.

It helps to have a municipal-experienced IT engineer assess your overall systems, determine what you need, and assist with any configuration, implementation, and deployment. If you aren’t aware of compatibility issues before you invest in specific hardware, software, and other tools, then you may waste a lot of money or divert it into the wrong solution.

2. Inability to easily find video footage.

Despite the expectation of technical difficulties, police departments often assume that finding video footage would be one of the easier pieces. However, video footage volume, software functionality, and search capabilities can all present technical obstacles when attempting to search and retrieve data.

Remember, body worn camera footage will grow all the time and the footage is very large in file size. Having a video management system (or filing process) to easily organize, manage, and search video will help you easily retrieve videos for investigations and Open Records Requests.

3. Struggling to secure the video footage.

Due to the nature of body worn video, security is a must. Police departments can’t assume security happens automatically just because they store video on a server or in the cloud. Many security gaps can exist including weak passwords, unauthorized data access given to staff or vendors, a failure to patch software, or misconfigured cloud services.

Your IT staff or vendor needs to help you:

  • Configure all hardware and applications properly.
  • Configure storage applications (especially the cloud) properly.
  • Require policies around passwords, authorized access, and security best practices.
  • Regularly patch software.
  • Monitor your systems and alert you in case of an issue.

4. Figuring out the right hosting.

Should you host your body worn camera video footage onsite or in the cloud? There is no right answer, and it can depend on your situation. Sometimes the cloud can offer a very affordable option with unlimited storage and low costs—especially from eliminating the need to purchase and maintain your own servers. In other cases, cities can save money by storing the video footage onsite.

Whatever the solution, police departments need to make sure that the information is secure, compliant with the law, and accessible. Onsite may work as a better solution, but you will also need IT engineers on hand to closely monitor and maintain this equipment. If cloud seems a better option, then security and compliance absolutely must be a factor when evaluating vendors—especially when you don’t directly control the storage onsite.

5. Backing up video footage.

While true for any city’s information, data backup and disaster recovery become even more important with the volume and sensitivity of body worn camera video footage. You don’t want to permanently lose this data, especially if it pertains to an investigation, Open Records Request, or state records retention legal requirement.

Police departments need to consider:

  • How they will back up data onsite for quick recovery after a minor incident (like a server failure).
  • How they will recover from a disaster such as fire, flooding, tornado, or ransomware. In this case, unlimited offsite data backup storage in the cloud is an excellent option.
  • How they will archive video following state records retention policies.
  • How they will test their data backup and disaster recovery.

In 2017, we conducted an interview with the City of Auburn’s police department. Police Chief Carl Moulder (retired) and Lt. Chris Hodge (now Chief Hodge) said, “I highly recommend involving your IT provider from the very beginning. They can keep you from making huge IT-related errors. Again, I believe it’s better to not have a system at all than to have a system that doesn’t work properly.”

In other words, involve IT from the very beginning to avoid the five obstacles we mentioned above. That way, your body worn camera technology will have a greater chance of working over the long-term and truly improve the quality and transparency of your police department.

Having trouble with any of the five body worn camera obstacles above? Reach out to us today.

Original Date: 8/14/2019