The cities, which are right next to each other, are pursuing different vendors and different storage solutions. As a result, one is spending far less than the other. Both hope to equip officers soon.
(TNS) — Park Ridge’s chief of police is reaffirming his recommendation to equip officers with body-worn cameras at a cost of $282,000 over five years, even as the neighboring Niles Police Department looks to begin a similar, but lower-cost, program for its officers.
“It’s my decision, and I stand by it,” Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski said this week of his recommendation to pilot and, later, purchase 54 Axon body cameras for the department’s officers.
Last week, during a presentation before the Niles Village Board, Niles Police Chief Luis Tigera addressed a proposal to purchase 55 body-worn camera units and assorted equipment from Safety Vision at a cost of $52,067.
That cost, according to Niles Police Cmdr. Robert Tornabene, includes a two-year warranty, as well as service and technical support. The department will use its own servers to store video footage, and there is a two-year, $11,500 additional cost to upgrade those servers, Tornabene said.
Park Ridge’s contract with Axon, which was approved in December, includes video storage fees, which total more than $50,000 each year, according to the contract. Niles’ current cost proposal does not include such fees.
When asked about the significant price difference between the city’s contract and the cost proposed by Niles, Kaminski called it an “unfair comparison.”
“I’m sure the Niles chief is making a recommendation based on what is good for his department and needs,” Kaminski said. “We made our decision on what we felt was in the best interest of our department and our needs.”
Unlike Niles, Park Ridge is not storing the camera footage in-house. Kaminski said Axon is offering the “safest and most secure” storage of video evidence. The storage is also unlimited, which was a key selling point, he said.
“What Axon provides is a cloud-based storage system that is compliant with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division,” Kaminski said. “It’s a secured site. It’s proven it’s not going to be tampered with. We’ve got to be able to maintain that.”
Each day, footage from police calls and traffic stops will be uploaded and saved, the police chief said.
Park Ridge piloted four Axon body cameras in 2018, around the same time the Niles Police Department piloted cameras from Axon, Motorola and Safety Vision.
According to information shared with the Niles Village Board, Axon’s proposed cost for body cameras was $117,398 and Motorola’s was $110,953. These quotes included fees for video storage, and their costs per camera were also higher than Safety Vision’s, Tornabene said.
Park Ridge 6th Ward Ald. Marc Mazzuca, who was critical of Kaminski for not testing additional camera brands or seeking bid proposals from companies other than Axon, credited Niles for choosing a “competitive selection process that field-tested three vendors.”
“On the surface, it was clearly far more thorough than the one used in Park Ridge during 2018, and it seems like Niles may have gotten a much better deal as a result,” Mazzuca said.
Last year, Kaminski said he recommended Axon in part because it is the company that other major departments in Illinois, including the city of Chicago, use and was the brand that as the city of Elgin used during its early pilot program of the devices. The body cameras can also be synced with the officers’ tasers, Kaminski said.
“We have a well-tested, secure product that I know is the best,” he said this week.
The police chief said he hopes to see the cameras in use by May following in-department training.
“I’m excited about getting them out there and seeing what the first year impact will be,” he said.
The Niles Police Department is awaiting approval of funding for its cameras in the 2019-20 budget. If approved, officers could be using the cameras early this summer, Tornabene said.
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