Wilmington City Council members unanimously agreed to help fund about 70 new body cameras for its police officers, as Police Chief Ralph Evangelous asked to hold off on buying more until the city can figure out how to manage a growing mountain of data collected daily.
The chief noted WPD sergeants are being taken off the street to sort through hours upon hours of incoming video data, and the issue over who will manage the massive amounts of extra data has him concerned.
“Our sergeants are [monitoring this data], and they’re not in the field supervising. Do we want our supervisors watching computer screens or do we want them out there supervising…I suggest we want them out in the field,” Evangelous said during Tuesday’s council meeting.
Although an additional 110 cameras are needed to cover the rest of the officers in the WPD, Evangelous recommended the city “not get any more video cameras in the field until we can get someone who is going to manage this stuff.”
According to Evangelous, while the department “is not looking at every second of video,” in order to meet standards within the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) it needs to randomly audit every police officer’s footage. This process can be over a three-month period, or 20 to 25 percent of the officer’s recorded video footage per month.
With the department’s latest addition, this includes footage from 170 car cameras along with 110 police body cameras all streamlined into one system, with every officer having their own account.
For Evangelous, the solution to the data storage problem would be to hire a video content manager who could sort through footage and help compress it down—with additional support from retired officers who work part-time to help monitor the video.
“This video manager is not only [compressing] and cataloging video, they’ll be setting up accounts, and helping with troubleshooting for our officers’ video accounts…there’s a lot to deal with here,” said Evangelous.
While Evangelous did say he would begin working with City Manager Sterling Cheatham to coordinate this effort of a video content team, he could not state a specific time frame for when these new positions would be filled or where the funds would come from to create the program.
He did stress the importance of the continued use of these cameras for his officers and the public.
“Bottom line, this is not the panacea. These [cameras] are not going to solve all the problems of the world because they have a lot of trouble at night working in low light. But it will clearly not only protect our public, but it will protect our officers. We see the bad things from these cameras, but we never see the great police work that’s done every day… I think the public should get to see that, too.”
James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD