The City Council, which has spent months dealing with the complexities of deploying a police body-worn camera program, decided Tuesday to go out for bids on 350 cameras and required video storage and processing equipment.
The council had already included $2.4 million for the full program — $1 million of that from state and federal grants — in the 2016-17 operating budget of $234.4 million, which the council approved last month. Most of that funding was earmarked to hire the 15 field sergeants needed to oversee the date-to-day use of the cameras in interaction with the public.
Police Chief Will Johnson started a 50-cam pilot program last year, during the national unrest sparked in part by police shootings of unarmed young black men. The pilot allowed the Police Department to try out a variety of cameras and equipment.
City Manager Trey Yelverton said the full body-cam program backed by the council would cost about $1 million, including four positions to run the data management system. One of those would be an open-records attorney.
The cameras would be introduced gradually, Yelverton said. Lt. Christopher Cook, a police spokesman, said there are 640 officers in the department.
Councilman Robert Rivera said the camera technology is “obviously new to Arlington, and we have to manage the community’s expectations of what the cameras can and cannot do.” He said the challenges “require that we move forward with a methodical approach.”
Among the many things to consider are how to store and manage the two types of video — that of routine encounters between police and the public and that of what may become evidence in potential crimes, said Councilman Michael Glaspie, who chairs the council subcommittee exploring body-worn cameras.
Ideally, he said, the city would end up contracting with two or more vendors “to give us flexibility” if adjustments are needed later.
Requesting proposals for the equipment, evaluating the bids and preparing recommendations to the council would take about six months, Glaspie said. Body cameras could start appearing on the streets during the following three months.