Mayor: $4 million cost to store police camera footage for 5 years

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Tuesday was a show-and-tell of sorts for the Memphis City Council as a member of the Memphis Police Department showed how police body cameras will be worn.

City Council members wanted to know why the cameras are taking so long to hit the streets.

"I hope a lack of money is not a reason we can't do particular things. Go ahead and get this done," City Councilman Edmund Ford said.

Police likened the process to putting a man on the moon. It's a lot of work.

Right now only 150 MPD cars have cameras, and only three officers are wearing them for field testing. That has already produced 22,000 videos.

"For every hour of video, it can take up to three hours to process, review and redact," Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said.

It's why the city said it has to hire 10 new video analysts who can also handle video requests to see the footage. That doesn't even include what the District Attorney will need.

Police did give some new details on how the cameras will operate.  In-car cameras come on when a car speed reaches 75 miles per hour or when a blue light is turned on.

The video will be saved for 90 days for traffic stops and longer for certain other offenses.

Video will be uploaded to a service provided by the company that sold the city the cameras.

"What's it gonna cost to store the video? At a minimum for five years, its $4.1 million total, not per year," said Strickland.

The big question in the room: When do police turn off the cameras?

"What will the policy be about turning cameras on and off during their work?" Memphis City Councilwoman Patrice Robinson asked.

"We know there are gonna be some circumstances where an officer is worried more about safety than popping that camera on. This is a work in progress," said Police Director Mike Rallings.

Investigators on the scene can also order cameras to be turned off, like in the recent deadly police shooting.

Police will start expanding body cam testing to a shift of officers at the Crump Police Station and begin adding more car cameras each year.

They said slow progress doesn't mean a lack of commitment.

"We are gonna do it. We are going to get it done and be transparent about the whole process," Strickland said.

In two weeks, Strickland will take to the City Council a fee proposal, staffing proposal and camera review policy.

Police said they do have possession of 1,700 cameras right now that are sitting in storage at the Airways Police Precinct.

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