Recently, the Act Concerning Police Accountability became law in the State of Connecticut. Since then, police departments have begun to comply with its various mandates—including mandates requiring the use of body-worn recording equipment and dashboard cameras in each police patrol vehicle.
For many municipalities, the challenge of purchasing new equipment and upgrading existing equipment is daunting enough—despite the help of grants. But beyond the equipment, municipalities need the right information technology foundation to ensure the equipment functions seamlessly, securely, and compliantly.
Connecticut is not alone. Instead, this law represents a potential wave of new and revised laws mandating body-worn recording equipment and dashboard camera requirements that will likely affect your municipality. These laws also often include requirements around data retention, storage, and backup along with minimum IT standards.
Simply following technical specification guidelines provided by state agencies will not entirely help cities and towns when evaluating solutions that help with compliance. In this article, we look at the forest instead of the trees to give a sense of the needed IT foundation for your police equipment—along with some obstacles to anticipate. Otherwise, your city or town risks malfunctioning equipment, wasted money, and an inability to comply with any current or upcoming laws in your state.
Video footage takes up much more space than simply storing text and images. It’s not unusual for towns and cities to find that their local servers get quickly filled to the limits of their storage. This forces departments into an uncomfortable position—whether paying higher rates for more storage or taking risky shortcuts such as deleting data to make room for more footage.
Storage options include cloud hosting, which removes the need for you to buy expensive hardware. Accessed over the internet, cloud-hosted data can sometimes introduce concerns if internet access is spotty or you want more control over how your footage is stored. Conversely, owning your own onsite servers gives you more control over your data and less reliance on internet access as a way to retrieve data. However, owning hardware requires you to manage and maintain those servers.
The right storage solution really depends on your individual situation such as the number of officers in your department, the number of cameras you need, and other department-specific factors. An IT consultant can help you decide which storage solution works best for you.
You need to keep sensitive and confidential video footage secure to protect unauthorized people from accessing it. Many states’ technical requirements will mandate some kind of compliance with CJIS Security Policy. Unfortunately, it’s common for people to share passwords or for everyone to have administrative access to applications for ease of use. If you don’t already have an authentication and authorization security policy in place for data access, establish one and enforce it.
Your solution must also be compliant with existing federal and state laws. For example:
- It’s best to ensure that you are CJIS-compliant from the very beginning. Otherwise, you may make costly mistakes that can inhibit your policing (such as losing access to federal databases).
- The law will require you to retain video footage for a specific period of time, or for an indefinite period of time if the footage is related to an active investigation.
- When you receive an FOIA or Open Records Request, you must be able to locate and access the correct video footage in a timely manner.
- Your data storage solution—whether cloud or on-premise servers—must meet general data center requirements (such as SOC 2).
A good video archiving solution will allow you to access video footage easily and quickly when needed for FOIA requests or investigations based on how data is organized and structured. While many police departments can often access footage themselves, it also helps to have an IT resource on hand to assist with video footage retrieval if needed.
5. Data backup and disaster recovery
You need the ability to recover your data in case of small incidents (such as a server failure or power outage) or larger incidents (such as ransomware or a natural disaster). A data backup and disaster recovery solution, ideally with an onsite and offsite component that is tested periodically to ensure it works, is a must.
6. Functionality and Compatibility
Even if your equipment meets minimum technical specifications, many cities and towns can still experience issues with hardware, software, and equipment not working together. For example, in one city, cameras did not communicate properly with a docking station and prevented the video data from uploading properly. Before you choose a solution, perform an IT inventory and assessment to ensure you have the right hardware, software, and equipment so that everything works together.
If you have questions or need guidance concerning your state laws related to body-worn recording equipment and dashboard cameras, reach out to us today.
Note: Written by VC3, this article was originally published in the February 2021 issue of Connecticut Town & City. We’ve adapted our original article to apply to all towns and cities from any state. Learn more about the video archiving feature of IT in a Box.