New Law Affects Police Video Storage and Retention

August 25, 2016

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Effective July 1 HB 976 impacts how cities must retain video recordings. Specifically, Section 2(b) of the law states that: video recordings from law enforcement body-worn devices or devices located on or inside of law enforcement vehicles shall be retained for 180 days from the date of such recording.
A body camera worn by a Snellville Police Officer
However, video recordings related to criminal investigations, vehicular accidents, detainments, arrests, use of force, or pending litigation must be held 30 months from the date of the recording, as should video recordings related to commenced litigation, which are to be held until adjudication.
Keeping these legal and compliance pressures in mind, there are some critical areas that cities need to assess.
Handling High Volumes of Data
Dave Mims, CEO of Sophicity, the company that delivers GMA’s IT in a Box said, “video record retention laws will most likely continue to evolve, but storage requirements needed to manage the data will well outpace those changes. It is best to prepare for continued storage growth from the outset.”
According to him, cities need to aim for low cost storage with high capacity (preferably an unlimited storage model that doesn’t increase in price over time) that handles both onsite and offsite storage.
Backing Up Data
If a city loses video recordings to a server failure or disaster, there is no way for storage to help this issue. Permanent data loss for information of this magnitude is serious. The law requires cities to have that information for at least 180 days. However, many cities still use data backup processes with a lot of uncertainty—stemming from old technology, manual processes prone to human error, and a lack of testing.
Experts with IT in a Box advise cities to ensure their data backup and disaster recovery processes allow them to recover video quickly after a server failure, power outage, fire, flooding, tornado, or other catastrophic event. In addition, their staff or a vendor need to regularly test their data backup at least quarterly to ensure that it works.
Securing All Video Data
Police video recordings often feature confidential and private information that must remain so unless released through the correct legal channels. But if a city relies on aging technology or fails to professionally maintain its technology, it may lack the proper information security for its video.
Physically securing all rooms where data is stored, ensuring that only authorized users access sensitive video recordings, and having IT professionals monitor all technology to proactively fend off hackers and cybersecurity threats is essential.
Director of Local Government Risk Management Services Dan Beck said, “If police departments don’t allocate the resources required to manage their required use of body cameras, review footage to ensure compliance, and maintain storage and retrieval capabilities, then we could potentially create bigger problems in the aftermath of police shootings.”
Because the legal ramifications of video archiving are so important, it’s justifiable to invest in appropriate technology to handle the demands of security, storage, and data backup. A technology assessment will help cities understand where they need to upgrade and modernize, prioritizing investments to make sure they can handle these modern demands.

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