Evolving with BWC Technology: Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department
The Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police Department began researching body-worn cameras (BWCs) in 2013 and began implementing its BWC program in 2015 with the receipt of a Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) BWC Policy and Implementation Program (PIP) grant. The agency employs approximately 4,500 personnel, of which 3,200 are assigned a BWC. During BWC planning, DC Metro decided to take a different approach implementing this technology compared to previous technology implementations. The department elected to implement BWCs in an integrated manner with its other technology systems, instead of as a silo, to minimize the number of different data repositories and assist with the sustainability, feasibility, and usability of the BWC program. The approach noted above has proven to be a substantial benefit to the program, agency, prosecutor’s office, and US Attorney’s Office.
In addition, during planning, DC Metro thoroughly thought through both the initial cost to implement the program and annual cost to maintain the program. Initially, DC Metro spent approximately $5.5 million to implement the BWC program. Each year following implementation, it has allocated $3 million to annual maintenance costs. This budget covers not only technology and storage costs, but also personnel costs for reviewing and redacting BWC footage and running the program, among other costs. To ensure that the program was sustainable, it was critical for the department to thoroughly outline these costs and expenditures ahead of time and to determine the appropriate amount of personnel needed to dedicate to the program. DC Metro BWC staffing includes 12 full-time personnel responsible for the management, oversight, and training of the program.
As local BWC laws were updated based on lessons learned, DC Metro had to re-evaluate the release of BWC footage. Because BWC release laws went from open to somewhat restricted, DC Metro changed their footage release procedures. The private viewing of BWC footage, rather than the actual release of footage, which dramatically reduces redaction requirements helping with the sustainability of the program, now meet many requests.
Since the program’s inception, DC Metro has been a leader in the field. They have worked with a well-known vendor to expand its pre-record buffer from 30 seconds to two minutes, which many agencies now use. DC Metro has also worked with several vendors to enhance video analytic and redaction technologies. In addition, instead of purchasing high cost auto-triggers, DC Metro elected to implement multiple dispatcher reminders to ensure that officers are activating BWCs during critical and daily encounters. Many agencies have also adopted this model.
As DC Metro’s program continues to evolve, the department is now looking to enhance its video redaction capacities and technologies. DC Metro is also looking to implement digital evidence management and integration holistically into their technology systems. These efforts and others have ensured that DC Metro implemented a successful and sustainable BWC program as well as establishing it as a leader in the field.