BURLINGTON — Burlington Police Chief Mark Anderson is requesting a $70,000 earmark in the city’s 2020 budget to upgrade the department’s in-squad cameras.
The purchase would standardize the department’s recording systems, which already include body cameras from the same company, Arizona-based Axon Enterprises, Anderson said during a budget session Wednesday night at the Burlington Fire Department station, 165 W. Washington St.
Axon cameras use cloud technology to store footage, meaning the squad camera upgrade would save money in the long-run, Anderson said.
“Using cloud storage (would) free up server space, stop us from continually buying server space, as well as an easy way to share the video with the courts,” Anderson said.
The Axon cameras also link with the squad’s emergency lights and would automatically start recording when the lights are activated, and the camera would record the previous 30 seconds with a buffer. All of the in-squad cameras would move to the new system at once under Anderson’s request.
The upgraded cameras, however, cost about twice as much as the department’s current squad cameras, which run about $4,000 apiece, Anderson said.
“The good news is, we can take some of the in-squad cameras we now have — at this point it doesn’t appear that Axon will buy our old product — but we have an in-state network of police agencies that buy and sell products amongst themselves,” Anderson said.
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Bob Grandi, 2nd District Alderman, asked Anderson if there were any grants to offset the cost. Anderson said he was not aware of any but would continue to look.
Jon Schultz, 3rd District Alderman, wanted to know if officers could manually turn the cameras off.
“The reason I ask, right, every story in the news is: Conveniently, the body cam, or this cam, or whatever stopped at some critical point,” Schultz said.
Anderson said the department’s policy is for officers to activate cameras when they have “professional contact” with citizens. The last time Anderson could remember a case of an officer improperly turning a camera off was in 2014, he said.
Budget will develop
City Administrator Carina Walters and Finance Director Steve DeQuaker declined to share the budget so far with The Journal Times, saying it would be available later this month.
The next budget workshop sessions are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 16, 22 and 30, at the Burlington Fire Department.