It may take up to several hours for one police staffer to process a half-hour long body cam video in order to provide a copy to the public, to the press, to attorneys, or in response to Freedom of Information requests
If there are three or four officers involved in the same incident, each with their own half-hour video of the same action, that could add up to a day and a half or two days’ work.
And there are on average 12 requests coming in per week.
That’s why help is on the way as the city has just posted a notice that it is looking to hire a civilian employee to process body cam video.
Currently the department has assigned a sergeant and one officer to do the processing, said Asst. Chief Racheal Cain. It is now advertising for applicants for an additional civilian employee to help process the requests.
The new position, “body worn camera technical assistant,” is full-time and pays $45,757 a year. It requires a high school degree and “2-5 years’ experience with a variety of related computer software programs” or the equivalent training and experience in working with video cameras. Click here to read the full job description. (Click here to register with the city’s Human Resources Department web page and apply for the job.)
Cain has led the department’s year-long process to purchase the cameras, to craft general orders about their use, along with the roll out to the ranks.
In so doing New Haven is joining departments across the region and across the country in equipping officers with the cameras, in response to both public demands for police accountability as well as to help officers rebut untrue allegations about their conduct. The department received a grant to purchase 800 Axon Body Worn Cameras. Including storage, they cost about $700,000.
The camera roll out and training for individual officers began in November, and now all officers wear them.
Cain said that based on her research, it was always in the cards to have dedicated staff to support the program and foreseen in police planning for the body cam initiative . Her estimate was that a department the size of New Haven’s will eventually require up to four individuals dedicated to the work.
According to a department general order, the footage must be be retained for “a minimum of 90 days unless reproduced for evidentiary purposes or otherwise required” — less than what some states require. If the department gets a Freedom of Information Act request during that time, the video will need to be reviewed and possibly redacted. That has led to massive backlogs in Seattle or severely edited-down versions in other cities.
Cain said the Board of Alders approved the new position. The hope is the new staffer will be able to start as soon as the budget is approved.
The work involves going “screen by screen,” Cain said. Depending on the material being reviewed, the tech will use specialized software to blur faces, to eliminate names in order, for example, to maintain confidentiality and to protect juveniles or the names of people involved in sexual assault situations, she said.
Other responsibilities of the job entail serving as liaison between the department and Axon, the company providing the equipment; working with the department’s information technology staff on in-house issues; and picking up on Freedom of Information requests.