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    DOJ Announces $20 Million for Police Body Cams

    DOJ Announces $20 Million for Police Body Cams

    Is Obama working toward his promised “civilian national security force”?

    When Al Sharpton called for the nationalization of America’s police forces earlier this month, many were quick to dismiss him as reactionary or even radical.  However, it may be worth revisiting this point in light of the news that the DOJ is going to be spending $20 million in body cams for police.  As Ed Morrissey notes:

    This is another step in the de facto nationalization of police forces under the aegis of the DoJ. Milwaukee’s Sheriff David Clarke warned about that earlier in the week, and this is another soft step in that direction. The $20 million pilot program will almost certainly have to expand significantly in order to have an impact, and the DoJ will end up imposing it as a standard through the enforcement of their Civil Rights Division. That erodes the kind of local control that keeps police forces responsive to their own communities, much the same way that the avalanche of mandates from the Department of Education has done to school boards around the country. This is a decision that should be left to states and local communities.

    When any entity takes money or resources from the federal government, it automatically becomes subject to regulations, restrictions, mandates, and oversight by the feds.  We see this in education both at the K-12 and the university level, in health care, even in senior centers where residents have been told they cannot pray before meals because their senior center receives federal funding.

    It is worrying, then, when the federal government decides to step in and provide body cams for local and state police.  The issue is not whether the cameras are a good idea; people on both sides of the aisle tend to agree that the cams will help resolve questions about police activities quickly, before incidents become inflamed.  The problem is the role of the federal government in local and state policing.  Do we really want a nationalized police force?

    And why is Al Sharpton the one out there floating the idea?

    It could be, as Politico reported, that Sharpton has become Obama’s “go to man on race” since the Trayvon Martin shooting and the Ferguson riots.  Indeed, according to the Daily Mail, Obama met with Sharpton and with his cabinet, in December of last year, to discuss a much broader (and more expensive) agenda for the militarization of the nation’s police: a $263 million plan that included outfitting police not only with body cams but military equipment and training.

    Sharpton’s role in the Obama presidency is not fully understood, in no small part because our media traded their role as watch dog for lap dog,  but he has logged, as of last December, 61 visits to the White House.  Even Juan Williams is amazed that Sharpton is “in with the President of the United States”:

    It’s certainly noteworthy that Sharpton is “in” with Obama, and it makes his announcement that we need to federalize the nation’s police carry all the more weight.

    The latest announcement by the DOJ prompted me to go back and listen again to Obama’s 2008 speech in which he declared that “We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set.   We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded” (at 16:43).

    There was a lot of speculation about what he might have meant by that, though not a lot of follow-up by members of the press, and eventually, many people seemed to forget that he promised to establish a “civilian national security force” equal to our military.

    I wonder if it’s possible, with the increasing federal involvement in local and state police, that we’re seeing yet another fundamental transformation begin to take shape as state and local police come under the federal umbrella?



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    Pure symbolism. Twenty million dollars. From an article in from late last year, it puts up the cost your really talking about.

    “…A quality body camera can cost around $1000, once you’ve bought the charging/docking cradles, maybe an extra battery or two, and the hardware necessary to mate the camera to the officer/user’s shirt, shoulder, or head. They’re reasonably sturdy devices, and should be good for a few years.

    The gift that keeps on giving here is the video those cameras produce. That video consumes a lot of disk space, and there will be more every day.

    Adding it Up

    Here’s a calculation based on a 50-officer agency: say 60% of your cops work on a typical day, and each produces an average of four hours of video. If the video is encoded at 640×480 VGA (the format stored by the TASER AXON system, one of the more popular models) it’s going to take up 15-20 MB of space per minute (TASER may compress the video better than that— this is just an estimation). That’s just over 1 GB per hour, times four hours, times 30 cops, times three shifts: 360 GB per day, more than a terabyte every three days, ten terabytes per month.

    How long do you want to keep that video on file before you delete it? If you say “forever,” get ready to write an increasingly large check each month. If you can live with, say, three months, that’s about 30 terabytes worth of storage, plus whatever you keep around for open cases.

    Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the largest cloud storage services in the world. Netflix uses them for their trove of streaming video. There are a lot of variables, but the figure I got for keeping this volume of video online with AWS, creating a new volume at the end of each sift, is $6260.79. Apply whatever multiples you might need for more cops or a longer retention interval.

    It’s easy to see that the cost of purchasing the body cameras is almost trivial compared to the price tag for maintaining the video archive….”


    Now how many cops are out there? Per the DOJ, America has as of 2008 765K full time peace officers (plus 100K reservist) (Source:

    Say one third of the full timers work patrol that’s around 255K (not counting reservist in this). The cost of just outfitting that number of officers with cameras is 255M. Assume that half already have one, that’s around 125M every two years. Again, this doesn’t even begin to add in the cost of storage. So yes, this is eyewash for the low information people out there.

      Midwest Rhino in reply to MikeAT. | May 3, 2015 at 7:23 pm

      They figure a high cost for every item, and figure on storing every hour of video, at a rather high cost. They really only need to keep records of actual arrests or confrontations, and not all of those. That might be a couple GB a day per cop on the street, and it could be kept on normal on site servers unless it was a special incident. At $50/TB that is nothing … fill it up, throw it in a box.

      I started using a recorder in my truck, it records in segments and just loops over itself, a 32GB mini card (about $16) holds about six hours. Nice HD quality with audio cost like $50. Tech keeps getting better and cheaper … in a year they will have something wearable and small for $100, if they don’t already.

      But yeah, if they have a good snitch like Freddie, do they really want everything recorded? And do the bad guys need to be able to study the methods of the cops? Maybe they record but only need to turn in segments where there is physical harm, or for a statement of guilt … not every word they say.

    TX-rifraph | May 3, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Cops sometimes show up at embarrassing situations. Out of respect for the citizen, he/she will cancel backup officers to minimize the impact on somebody. Only one outsider cop knows. How horrible for the citizen to have the situation on video. I am not sure I would ever want to talk to a cop wearing a camera as it changes a personal interaction into a public interaction. Very bad idea cameras are. Even worse when in the hands of the DOSJ (Department of Social Justice).

      Eskyman in reply to TX-rifraph. | May 3, 2015 at 9:09 pm

      Thanks for that comment, TX-rifraph! I had not thought of that aspect at all, so it gave me lots to think about. Now I wonder what other points of view I’ve overlooked.

      At first I was all in favor of the notion that all cops must have a cam when interacting with public, and I’m still leaning that way- but there are a whole lot of pitfalls involved in protecting the citizen against the police and vice-versa. So I’m still weighing that up, glad you opened my eyes.

      Concerning the Freddie Gray case, I do think there should have been a cam inside the transport vehicle, and in all paddy wagons/cruisers, wherever prisoners are kept. At least that’s what hindsight tells me!

        TX-rifraph in reply to Eskyman. | May 4, 2015 at 4:44 am

        Perhaps body cams only in public places (the street, police transport vans, etc.) and not in private places (homes)where a person does have an expectation of privacy? The cops are often inside a home in a safety capacity (stop a fight before it escalates) and not in a LE capacity where somebody may be headed to jail. I think we need to respect the law of unintended consequences. The issue has many dimensions that need to be considered. The move by the DOSJ is considering only one.

      Ragspierre in reply to TX-rifraph. | May 4, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      I worry that if the police are going to be forced to wear body cameras, then they are going to be more reluctant to exercise judgment and discretion in how they enforce these laws because they might later be second-guessed, especially if it later turns out that there is some disparate impact in policing. And I suspect that these instances of police exercising discretion to not enforce laws are far more prevalent than the rare instances where matters go awry. I also recognize that the costs of the latter situation are much larger.

      So while I think the benefits of body cameras probably outweigh the costs overall, I fear that one unintended consequence will be that there will actually be more arrests, especially of people who don’t really deserve it.

      I think that likely, especially where revenue generation is the real goal.

    Eskyman | May 3, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    Sad to notice that there’s some cowardly jerk hereabouts- a lot of perfectly sensible comments have been downthumbed.

    I do wish those people had the courage to actually come out and say something, maybe even defend their ideas… but then they probably wouldn’t be progressives, would they. Sigh.

    MouseTheLuckyDog | May 3, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    How much money is being appropriated for new CCTV cameras for high crime and high volme areas?

    Seems they want to watch the cops but not the criminals,

    MouseTheLuckyDog | May 3, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    One thing to thing of. Watching the NFL, with all it’s cameras and expensive operators adjusting camera angles to get maximum coverage, how often do you think “yeah that’s a touchdown” or “yeah that’s a fumble” … and then decide you were wrong after the third camera angle?

    Think it will be better for body cams?

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