How One Texas County Is Preparing Data Storage for Bodycam Videos

The Bexar County Commissioners Court spent $812,000 on software development and storage capability, which is estimated to require up to 23.5 TB of video evidence per month.

by John W. Gonzalez, San Antonio Express-News / January 5, 2016
David Kidd

(TNS) — It was just a first step down an endless, expensive road.

Commissioners Court on Tuesday spent $812,000 on software development and data storage capability to prepare for the proliferation of body-worn cameras by Bexar County sheriff's deputies.

Most of the sum goes to Microsoft to develop ingestion software for the secure transfer of video from officers to prosecutors. Using leased and on-site cloud storage, the county plans to develop a repository for sheriff and San Antonio Police Department videos to smoothly feed them into the district attorney's system.

Up to 23.5 TB of video evidence a month may need to be stored, officials estimated. That’s roughly the equivalent of 5,500 dvds.

Currently bodycams are worn by only a dozen deputies, including motorcycle officers, but the devices eventually will be carried by all deputies. By the end of the month, 51 officers will be equipped and the program will gradually grow from there, said Chief Deputy Manuel Longoria.

In December 2015, at a cost of $900,000 the county ordered 300 bodycam, along with 200 vehicle-based hubs that include a dash camera. At the time, officials warned that the initial investment was minor compared to long-term data storage costs. Their concerns remain, with County Judge Nelson Wolff admonishing staff to closely monitor expenses.

But there’s also puzzlement why it’s taken this long to put the cameras on more deputies.

“I have to say I’m disappointed in the pace of the rollout,” said Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Calvert. SAPD and others have deployed theirs “in a much more robust way,” he said.

Pressed to estimate when all 300 cameras would be in the field, Sheriff’s Lt. Aaron Von Muldau, who’s overseeing deployment of the equipment from Utility Corp., said that’s not possible because of pending uncertainties regarding the interface with the DA’s office.

“Hopefully, as long as the interface goes like it’s supposed to, within the next six months it will be a full implementation,” Von Muldau said.

“Forty percent of the body camera projects that were started have failed,” usually because of storage costs, Von Muldeau said. “We are not going to fail. We are taking a very measured pace in order to get this,” he said.

County planners estimated that 35-40 percent of recorded incidents will become criminal evidence. Collaborating with Microsoft, the county plans to develop a system to export county and SAPD evidence from the repository to the DA’s digital evidence management system.

Commissioners authorized $562,685 for Microsoft to develop the automated ingestion system. It allotted $250,000 to Sirius Computer Solutions for cloud storage space.

A briefing document for commissioners said “the introduction and expansion of video cameras (in-car, body-worn, interrogation room, etc.) for BCSO and SAPD will generate quantities of digital data that will soon exceed the county’s storage capacity. The county must expand its storage capacity to meet the planned increase in digital evidence.”

More discussions are planned on balancing leased versus county-owned storage space.

©2016 the San Antonio Express-News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.