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City to spend $224K for police body cameras

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Elko City Hall

ELKO – City police officers soon will be getting new body cameras, digital cloud storage of video taken with the cameras, and footage that could be used as evidence, bringing the Elko Police Department in line with state law.

Elko City Council at its June 26 meeting approved a five-year, $224,041 contract with AXON Enterprises Inc. for 40 cameras, along with software, hardware and digital storage.

The Nevada Legislature approved Senate Bill 176 in its 2017 session, and Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the measure into law, requiring peace offices to wear “a portable event recording device while on duty.” The bill requires storing recordings for a minimum of 15 days.

The law goes into effect this July.

Elko Police Capt. Ty Trouten said on June 27 he called the AXON representative “and hopefully they will start today. It’s usually a month out to shipment.”

He reminded the Elko City Council the law is an unfunded mandate for the city. State lawmakers allowed a surcharge of up to $1 from 911 fees to be used for cameras and storage, but the city and Elko County decided to keep the county’s 25-cent surcharge focused on improving the 911 system.

“EPD has had some cameras purchased by officers, but no storage, and in 2014 we started field testing brands and storage and software,” Trouten said at the meeting. “Testing showed cloud storage best.” He said the department found AXON to be the only one to meet all the needs of the department.

Four or five officers bought body cameras with their own money and used them maybe two or three years before they wore out, but “we haven’t had any cameras since that time,” except for field testing, Trouten said on June 27. “We haven’t had the department purchase any, ever.”

He said AXON will provide training before officers use the cameras on the street.

Law enforcement in Elko County had been worried about the storage aspect of the new law, and Sheriff Jim Pitts told Elko County Commissioners in May 2017 the department would be looking at a new system.

The Elko County Sheriff’s Department has had body cameras for several years, as has the West Wendover Police Department and the Nevada Highway Patrol. They all use AXON, Trouten said.

Carlin’s police also have used body cameras for roughly three years, according to Elko Daily Free Press reports.

The $55,112 first-year cost for the Elko body cameras, software and storage is the highest yearly outlay and is in the budget for this 2018-2019 fiscal year. The cost will be $42,232 each of the following years.

The company will replace cameras after 30 months and again shortly before the contract expires. The department went through the state purchasing system for the best price.

A critical component is a software platform that can be used by prosecutors and defense attorneys, Trouten told the council. AXON’s system also allows for redacting, such as blocking out children’s faces, before a video would be available on the cloud for public information requests, for example.

He said AXON’s products can record for 12 hours, while other tested cameras didn’t hold a charge that long. If an officer is working a 12-hour shift, the extra time is important. The department also looked at the clarity of the videos during testing, as well as audio capabilities.

Councilman Reece Keener questioned whether the cameras are automatically activated when, for example, someone pulls a gun. Trouten said that doesn’t happen because of the cost, but if several officers are on a scene, all the cameras will be activated, even if someone forgets to turn theirs on.

Elko City Manager Curtis Calder said the budget for this fiscal year includes money to hire a network specialist for the entire city who could also help police should their technician handling the new cameras need help.

“Up to this date, the city has only employed two positions within the IT department, and they get stretched pretty thin,” Calder told the Elko Daily Free Press.

The council was concerned that body cameras may take officers’ time away from the public. Trouten said officers will have to download their cameras and tag any video evidence, but at this point the department doesn’t know how long that will take.

“Some of the officers see the value in the cameras but are apprehensive they will be intrusive on their time,” he said. “Overall I believe it is positive.”

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