North Port, Fla., Inks $1M Body Camera, Taser Deal

The five-year contract calls for the department’s 84 officers to be equipped with two cameras, so one would always be available while the other is uploading video via a docking system.

by Earle Kimel, Sarasota Herald-Tribune / February 28, 2019
Axon

(TNS) — Eighty-four North Port police officers may be wearing body cameras as soon as April, as city officials continue the process of hammering out a deal with Axon Enterprises — the same provider who supplied 10 cameras for a trial period last November.

Deputy Police Chief Chris Morales, who has spearheaded the research into body cameras since last June, provided the North Port City Commission an update on that trial at Tuesday night's meeting.

Board members, especially Vice Mayor Debbie McDowell, have voiced their approval throughout the process.

Tuesday's presentation was an informational update, with a vote in the contract with Axon scheduled for March 5.

The cameras continuously record a 30-second loop of time, until the officer switches it "on" to preserve the audio and video capture. North Port Police have developed procedures that require the officers to activate them as soon as they respond to a call.

"It's just a muscle memory," Morales said.

But in the event they forget in the heat of the moment, the cameras automatically start preserving both sound and video the moment the officer draws either a gun or a Taser.

The camera then preserves the previous 30 seconds of video from the loop, though not the audio.

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

Morales gave the commission a summary of camera use between Nov. 1, 2018 and Jan. 4, 2019.

During that period, 1,155 videos were captured, covering a period of 348.93 hours, and requiring 610.76 gigabytes of storage space.

On average, 17.77 videos were uploaded per day, covering 5.37 hours of video per officer and 9.4 gigabytes of storage.

All videos will be uploaded to evidence.com and must be retained for at least 90 days. Those relating to crime have separate retention schedules — in the case of a felony arrest, that can be three years.

About 44 percent of the overall video files created, or 548 files were classified as "other" in the Axon category summary report. Traffic stops made up 27.6 percent of the videos, with 342 video files. In addition to that, 49 video files were made of traffic crashes.

Morales' proposal calls for cameras to be worn by patrol officers, K9 officer, traffic unit officers, the Special Enforcement Team, school resource officers and the community police officers.

Detectives and the training unit will not wear cameras.

The five-year contract would be almost $1 million — coming in at $1.80 under that figure.

In addition to that, the city would need to spend another $12,000 a year for an additional internet line, and hire a full-time officer for the training unit, a full-time information technology expert, and a full-time records clerk to handle both an increase in public records requests and other retention concerns.

North Port would be signing on to the Officer Safety Plan with Axon.

The five-year contract calls for 84 officers to be equipped with two cameras — so one would always be available while the other one is uploading video via a docking system.

The cameras would be upgraded to the latest model every 2 ½ years, as per the contract. Though in the initial contract, North Port officers would have two camera swaps, the first coming when Axon releases its new Body 3 camera in October.

As part of the package, North Port officers are also upgrading to the Taser 7 from Axon, and will receive an unlimited number of duty cartridges for the Taser.

The Tasers come with a five-year warranty. In addition to equipping the officers, the department would receive four spare Tasers.

Morales pointed out that this replaces a $27,000 annual recurring expense for Taser gear.

©2019 Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.