As far as iconic warnings go, if you are in the United Kingdom you just can’t miss “Mind The Gap”. This audible and visual warning phrase issued to all rail passengers using The Underground warns them about the spatial gap between the train door and the station platform. Trademarked or not, we should borrow it from our brethren across the Atlantic and issue it to our law enforcement agencies on their every purchase of body-worn digital cameras and/or associated digital storage; as warning for the management gap between them.
You see, over the last few years there has been a tidal wave of social sentiment, pushing law enforcement agencies to ubiquitously use digital body-worn cameras while officers are on patrol; in hopes of curbing violence during police-citizen encounters. Some early adopting law enforcement agencies have found out “no good deed goes unpunished” through the unintended consequences of hastily deploying body-worn cameras to their teams.
Budgeting and appropriation processes aside; procuring body-worn cameras is a relatively straight forward process once “form, fit and function” requirements have been met by the manufacturers. No sooner the ink on a camera order is dry, and oftentimes concurrently, a purchase order for digital storage is issued. Technically speaking whether the storage is cloud based or on-premises is irrelevant, but know that it will likely grow to be of behemoth proportions.
So now the law enforcement agencies are generating digital evidence and storing it; excellent! Who is managing the evidence? Under what rules and procedures? Who is handling the administration and release of evidence to the DA? How are FOIA requests handled? How are duplicates and copies of the videos protected?
In the blink of an eye, even law enforcement agencies with budget and “available” manpower are finding some of their officers acting as post-production video specialists and their IT departments (yes, that one shared resource with the other county agencies) overwhelmed by the technical and procedural compliance challenges that they, and quite frankly few, if any, could foresee.
Both camera and storage manufacturers are doing great work to focus on their products and address the technical challenges of generating and storing digital content. Managing this content or “digital evidence,” has created fiscal, procedural, policy and manpower gaps that need immediate attention in order to ensure that the technology investment made to protect the truth and curb violence pays off.
Let’s mind the gap! In the end, body-worn cameras should be a “zero-load” addition to the tool-belt of law enforcement officers and agencies. All the digital evidence that they generate should be used for the greater goods that are social harmony and justice, and not lost between the cameras that generate, and servers that store it.