Pleasant Grove police scraps body cams; cites high cost of data storage

PLEASANT GROVE, Utah – They’re meant to improve oversight of police officers, but the Pleasant Grove Police Department is no longer using body cameras due to steep data storage costs.

Two years ago, the department was one of the first agencies in the state to outfit their officers with body cameras, but soon learned transparency comes with a high price.

“We want to run cameras. We’re all for it. This was a hard decision,” said Pleasant Grove Police Chief Michael Smith.

Smith said his 27 officers embraced the use of body cameras in 2014, but with the passage of House Bill 300 earlier this year, the technology posed some challenges.

The bill requires officers to use body cams on every encounter with law enforcement, putting a strain on their data storage capabilities.

“Any interaction no matter how small or how big, our officers show up. If their backup shows up you’re doubling your storage. It crashed our server,” Smith said.

In August, Smith decided to stop using body cams. He estimates the cost to temporarily replace the server for the next year would be around $10,000 to $15,000. Beyond that, the price could go as high as $75,000 a year for a reliable, data storage program.

“It’s not as easy as just getting a Drop Box and dumping all of our stuff in there,” the chief said.

Other hurdles Smith encountered with body cams is finding software that can redact private information, essentially evidence which could be used in court, and manpower to keep up with the collection of data.

“What we were averaging, an officer per shift was spending an hour of his shift downloading video off his body cam,” Smith said.

Criticism is pouring in from the public questioning the department’s priorities. Smith said other agencies across the country are also experiencing the same unintended consequences.

“We were one of the first to start again you know, now we’re being one of the first to be criticized for not being transparent. That’s not the issue,” he said.

Smith said they are looking at all avenues right now. Several companies have approached the department about developing a storage program.