Last week’s fatal shooting by a Nashville police officer has reignited interest in equipping officers with body cameras. Mayor Megan Barry says she intends to fund the technology, but her administration is still mulling how exactly the cameras would be used.
There’s already widespread public support for body cameras. One statewide poll found that 9 out of 10 Tennesseans would favor a requirement that officers use them.
And Mayor Megan Barry has fielded demands this week from the local chapters of the NAACP and Black Lives Matter to equip Metro as soon as possible. While that could get expensive, Barry has a task force exploring camera options, whether a test group or all officers should wear them and the policies that would govern their use.
“We have estimates of anywhere from $10 to $20 million, because of how much data needs to be stored and how long you store it,” Barry said. “That’s part of the policy conversation, about figuring out how the policy will dictate what the storage is, how long you’ll have this, etc.”
The Tennessean reported in October that Metro anticipates a $12 million startup cost, plus ongoing operational expenses.
Cities like Chattanooga set a policy about how long to save the digital footage. There are also questions about how quickly the material should become public record, as when officers use deadly force. (For more on these questions, see this Nashville panel discussion from December.)
Currently, some Metro police cruisers are equipped with dash cams. Policy for those devices indicates they are supposed to record anytime emergency lights and sirens are on. And the material is saved for 15 months.
Officials in Memphis and Clarksville have been moving toward body cameras, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol is exploring body cameras and additional in-car cameras. It’s possible that state lawmakers will act on statewide body camera policy this year.