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Mayor’s Office Announces Plans to Deploy Police Video Cameras

12/10/2019
Chris Song

Today, Mayor John Cooper announced a plan to begin deploying body-worn cameras (BWCs) by Metro Nashville police officers. The announcement follows months of discussions between the Mayor’s Office, the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD), the District Attorney’s Office, and Metro Information Technology Services (ITS), as well as the Public Defender’s Office, other criminal justice agencies, and community stakeholders.

“Nashville’s residents and police officers have been anxiously waiting for body-worn cameras since the initial announcement three years ago,” said Mayor John Cooper. “I understand and share the community’s frustration over the wait. Basic questions about how video will be used and shared hadn’t been addressed. In my first two and a half months in office, I’ve made sure that we continue to move forward with body-worn cameras as quickly and responsibly as possible. Thanks to the hard work of personnel across Metro, we now have a roadmap for implementing cameras. I’m excited that we can now move from talking about cameras to deploying them.”

Several issues have slowed the deployment of body-worn cameras. Metro agencies have not yet finalized policies for determining how video captured by police cameras would be shared with the District Attorney, the Public Defender, private defense attorneys, the Courts, and the public. The potential cost of full deployment is also a challenge. A report commissioned by District Attorney Glenn Funk and released last week estimated that full deployment of BWCs would cost the city more than $36 million per year. Finally, Metro has not yet built out the infrastructure to support wireless uploads of video at the city’s eight police precincts. The Mayor’s body-worn camera roadmap addresses these concerns.

Later this week, the Mayor’s Office will meet with the Criminal Justice Advisory Board to begin the process of working through remaining policy issues. In January, the Mayor’s Office will host a one-day technical advisory workshop, staffed by national experts who have worked with the U.S. Department of Justice to develop and facilitate BWC implementation in other cities, to create an implementation plan for Nashville. The Mayor’s Office will also host a community workshop to educate Nashville residents about policy options and solicit public input.

During this policy-making process, MNPD and ITS will continue to build out the necessary infrastructure for police officers to wirelessly upload video at Nashville’s eight precincts. According to MNPD, the timetable for completing the work required to begin to upload BWC footage wirelessly will be completed at the Metro Southeast facility in March. As soon as that work is completed, MNPD will deploy approximately two dozen BWCs to officers in its DUI and Traffic Enforcement Units to test the new network. DUI and Traffic Enforcement Units will also upgrade their in-car camera systems as part of a department-wide upgrade of computer-assisted dispatch/record management software (CAD/RMS) systems.

MNPD and ITS expect to complete the work of equipping all eight precincts with the ability to upload video camera footage wirelessly by May. That month, MNPD will deploy an additional 20 BWCs in “beta” for three months. The purpose of the beta rollout is to determine all-in costs and fine-tune operational procedures. The pilot will last for 3-6 months, at which point the Mayor’s Office will evaluate the results with expert technical advisors. Running BWCs in ‘beta’ will help the public and policymakers determine the costs and complexities of a wider deployment.

The Mayor’s Office and other criminal justice agencies will help inform the community about how BWCs work throughout the implementation, testing, and evaluation process. Metro will also seek community input about where and how this first set of cameras should be deployed.

“It’s important that we get this done, and it’s important that we get it right,” says Mayor Cooper. “This plan puts cameras in the field as soon as the infrastructure is there to support them and allows us to learn what works in the process.”

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