Webinar presenters Dr. Michael White and Asst Chief Brenda Buren answered a number of your questions after their presentation, What Law Enforcement Agencies Need to Know to Implement a Successful Body Worn Camera Program. Here are some of their responses.
Audience Question: Is federal funding available for private law enforcement agencies working on college campuses?
Michael White: There have been a diverse array of agencies that have gotten funding. There's probably 10 or 12 university police departments that have gotten funding, but it is my understanding that all of those are employees of the university — like a private security firm or organization. That I would recommend reaching out to BJA. If you'll go their website you'll see the RFP for the grant-funding program and there's a person to contact. I'm not quite sure about that. My guess would be it would be fine — but you'd want to check on it.
Audience Question: What vendor did Tempe, Arizona end up going with?
Brenda Buren: We ultimately went with Axon, which was Taser.
Audience Question: How long was the Tempe process from the starting of the research to the full deployment?
Brenda Buren: In terms of kicking it off, we didn't have everybody involved so it was a short process getting funding. Once we got funding, we probably did about 6 months of work before we really got the policy done. We were probably in it for about 9 months by the time we were procuring cameras. Obviously, very quickly after that, we rolled out our deployment. The plan, if you want to look at it overall, by the time we started this until we actually deployed cameras was probably about 9 months.
Michael White: What I would like to add to that is that there two pieces of funding. The earlier piece would have been the Tempe PD's funding for the program itself which essentially came from the city council. I started working with Tempe pro bono and I was able to secure funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation for full-blown evaluation. There were evaluation funding and a separate funding piece that Tempe used to pay for the program.
Audience Question: I am the deputy commissioner of the Virgin Islands PD and we just started a pilot program. Would we still be eligible for federal funds?
Michael White: I would say yes. I know one of the grantees is Puerto Rico so based on that I would imagine that the Virgin Islands would also be eligible.
Audience Question: Have you developed any recommendations as to how departments can manage the overwhelming administrative burdens associated with compliance with the search review redaction and disclosure requirements of state sunshine or freedom of information act laws pertaining to the release of body camera videotapes footage to the media and/or the public?
Brenda Buren: I guess the bottom line is how are we dealing with requests we're getting for video? Broadly, we expected it to be much worse or have more requests than what we have. So, it hasn't been too bad. Here comes the issue of the ability to actually redact. That is something to make sure you put in your RFP, the ability to do that. The tools aren't great right now. We have been able to meet those requirements a little bit easier by using Axon. Axon has the ability to shake or blur all of the videos so we can technically redact the entire video very quickly. Some of the media outlets do not like that but it's nearly impossible to meet the other needs until they have better tools. Arizona is pretty pro-community, in terms of we have to provide a lot of public records, similar to Florida and Washington State. It really hasn't been bad as we thought but we did ultimately get a redaction person for the PD as well as one for the prosecutor's office. The city prosecutor's office, I would say, is using the redaction time 3 to 1 to what the PD is.
Michael White: I would add that there is a tremendous variation across the States in terms of these public records sunshine laws and I know a number of agencies that got proactive with their state government to make modifications to existing public records laws which quite frankly are not designed to handle this new technology. Sometimes the agencies that have been very successful in getting changes made to the laws so the impending tsunami of public records requests never comes.
Audience Question: How difficult is the grant application? Is it even still feasible to apply for a grant in the next week?
Michael White: I think it's very feasible. In terms of the page limit, it's 10 pages. The one point I will make is that there is a 50% match requirement which may knock out a lot of folks right off the bat. If your agency has applied for federal grants before, so there's some institutional knowledge on how to do that, I don't think there will be problems in moving fairly quickly. If your agency has never applied for a federal grant before, it may be a little more difficult to get things done very quickly.
Audience Question: You talked about reaching out to a university to find a research partner to go on these endeavors, how should/could law enforcement agencies reach out to a university to do that? What's the best approach? What advice might you have given you've sat on both sides of the desk?
Michael White: There's nothing wrong with a cold call or an email. That's a good way to start. Other than that, if you have no relationship, I recommend reaching out. Lots of times, professors love to have officers come into classrooms to do kind of a guest lecture or visit to answer questions from students. If you have officers who have done that in the past with the local university, that's a good way. In many cases some of the officers in your department may actually be teaching, some do that on the side. Most academics would love and relish in the opportunity to work with a local police department. It will not be a hard sell, it's just how do you make that initial contact.
Audience Question: What are the most common ways agencies find to fund BWCs initially and ongoing?
Michael White: I don't know if there's a whole lot of information out there on that. I would think that probably the optimal way is to get that line item in the city budget so that you have it moving forward. I know others have gone creative in terms of using different kinds of funds, RICO funds. I know a number of agencies who've gotten private donations to fund it. I think Steven Spielberg is funding some of the early work in the LAPD.
Brenda Buren: The built-in to the city budget is the best approach, but it's sometimes the most difficult. What I would recommend is if you can find something like the Feds or somebody to help you with the initial purchase, that seems more doable. Whether you're using asset forfeiture money or anything else. That initial purchase isn't so bad but it's really difficult to maintain the program because like most technology we're seeing now, it's based on recurring funding. It is not a one-time shot and you don't need to deal with it for another 5 or 6 years. Most of the programs out there, in particular, the ones that make your life much easier are the ones that you need to pay a monthly or annual subscription to. That's difficult to get external funding just because you need a recurring funding source. For us it was about making a really good argument to the city council, even giving them a few things in exchange to get money for this program.