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The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is developing a body camera pilot program that will require updating the department's information technology infrastructure.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 13, 201712:00 PM EST

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office body camera program will require $2.7M in computer upgrades

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by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is preparing for a flood.

Police officers aren’t filling sandbags and reviewing evacuation plans. They’re getting ready for a flood of digital data that will come when the department implements its body camera program.

The first step is upgrading the department’s computer equipment.

City Council is considering Ordinance 2017-56 that would appropriate $2.7 million to replace network components that will be required when the body camera system goes into operation.

About 5 percent of the information technology infrastructure reached its end of life in 1999 and 80 percent of the remainder was due to be replaced from 2006 to 2012, according to the legislation.

According to data presented by the sheriff’s office last week to the council Public Health & Safety Committee, $1.2 million is needed to upgrade computer firewalls and network equipment at the Police Memorial Building and substations.

An additional $1.5 million was requested for a full network upgrade and to hire three additional help desk technicians to manage the data collected.

“The IT upgrade is the pipeline to get the video to the storage,” said Sheriff Mike Williams.

The office began a year ago studying how it would implement the system.

A committee was formed to study camera policies in place in other cities, both in Florida and across the U.S. as well as camera system providers, including Jacksonville-based Safariland, which markets the VIEVU body camera system.

Safariland sales director Jonathan Wrenn said when an officer activates the camera, it begins storing audio and video that was captured before the camera was activated to show the events leading up to activation.

After an incident an officer decides should have been recorded, the data can be downloaded using the laptop in the police car or at the end of the officer’s shift by using a docking station that also recharges the camera.

It’s storing the video that represents a major choice in how each department implements its body worn camera system, said Wrenn.

When JSO fully implements its body camera system, about 1.600 officers will be using the cameras.

“It will be one of the largest body camera programs in the country,” Williams said.

Under state law, all audio and video downloaded must be retained for at least 90 days and audio and video that will or may be used for evidence could need to be retained indefinitely.

“We maintain evidence in homicides for 50 years,” said Williams.

Most departments don’t record an officer’s entire shift, Wrenn said. The average duration of video recorded during a shift is about two hours.

According to JSO’s research, based on the number of officers that will be using the system and the expected amount of data that will have to be stored, in the first five years of the program, about 1.7 petabytes of data — equal to the amount of data needed for 1,700 two-hour motion pictures — will have to be stored just to retain the estimated 10 percent of the data that will be deemed evidence.

Wrenn said based on his experience working with police departments, JSO will likely choose to store its video in a highly encrypted government cloud instead of on computers maintained by the department.

“If there are more than about 200 officers using the system, the department probably will store data in the cloud,” Wrenn said.

Safariland’s system offers cloud storage for a monthly fee — up to $30 per month per camera.

Williams said after the computer equipment is upgraded, JSO plans to implement a pilot program this summer that will involve about 300 officers wearing the cameras.

“That will give us the chance to evaluate different systems and help us continue to develop our policies,” he said.

The ordinance is scheduled for a public hearing when council meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

mmarbut[email protected]

(904) 356-2466

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