Police Body Camera Trial to Begin in North Port, Fla.

The city will try out Axon body cameras on 10-12 officers for about a month, most likely starting in November. Body cameras have become commonplace in police departments across the country.

by Earle Kimel, Sarasota Herald-Tribune / November 6, 2018
Axon

(TNS) — North Port, Fla., police will contract with Axon Enterprises for a month-long trial for 10 to 12 officers to wear and evaluate body cameras.

The North Port City Commission unanimously approved the free field trial agreement Monday morning.

North Port Police Chief Todd Garrison — who made implementation of body cameras a priority when he was sworn in on July 18 — said a meeting with Axon is set for Nov. 19 to start the testing and evaluation phase.

Garrison said the evaluation period is more to determine how well the police department's current infrastructure can handle both the uploading and downloading of data, as well as determining where the officers would wear the cameras.

"We're going to have them assigned to two police officers per shift and both our K9s — canine handlers, not K9 dogs," Garrison said.

Each officer will use the cameras through the 30-day period, which is about 14 work shifts, he added.

Commissioner Debbie McDowell asked whether the cameras could be shared, to maximize their use during the evaluation period.

Garrison said that would complicate the way the video is logged, with respect to determining who was wearing the camera in a given period.

All videos created during the trial period will be uploaded to evidence.com, which is a cloud-based proprietary site operated by Axon, and subject to public records requests.

Garrison said that regardless of who North Port ultimately contracts with for body cameras, the video data would be maintained at evidence.com.

Axon, which started as TASER Inc. prior to changing its name in April 2017, contracts with more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies worldwide.

Garrison said the specific camera types and options will be decided during the Nov. 19 meeting with Axon.

The City Commission started the process to equip police officers with body cameras in June, before Garrison became chief.

At that time, a testing and evaluation period was anticipated to be anywhere from six months to a year. But Monday, Garrison said he hoped that the cameras could be evaluated within 30 days, though a second 30-day period could be tacked on, if warranted.

The city would then have to decide whether to buy or lease the cameras. In June, the cost of a five-year lease program was anticipated to cost about $151,000 per year, or a total of $755,000, with unlimited cloud storage, and camera upgrades every 2.5 years.

The cost of buying cameras and maintaining the city's own servers was anticipated to cost between $950,000 and $1.25 million.

The cost of buying cameras and using an off-site storage system varied from $498,000 to $802,000.

©2018 Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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