All Sandy Springs Police patrol officers will be wearing body cameras, likely this spring, as the City Council approved contracting with TASER International on March 21.
The approximately 70 cameras and related gear will cost $179,275—lower than the department’s $200,000 body-camera budget this fiscal year, according to Deputy Chief Keith Zgonc. After the first year, ongoing maintenance, licensing and video storage is expected to cost around $62,000 a year, he said.
TASER, an Arizona company known for its electric stun guns, was chosen over competing bids from Motorola Solutions and Utility Associates. The decision was made by an evaluation committee of police and city IT officials, along with input from the city’s legal, financial and purchasing departments. The process included officers field-testing the companies’ cameras in December and January.
According to a presentation by Zgonc, TASER’s technical scores were slightly lower than Utility Associates’ and its bid was about $44,000 cheaper.
Zgonc said that TASER’s cameras “not only were easy to use, but the back end [of video storage]…was very user-friendly, easy to train officers for. They should serve us quite well.”
Big questions for victim privacy and police transparency is how long that video will be stored and who will be allowed to see it. Zgonc said the department has a draft policy on camera use and video storage that will be refined and finalized. Councilmembers Tibby DeJulio and Gabriel Sterling requested the police demonstrate the cameras and present the policy at a future council meeting.
However, the bottom line is simple for residents wondering when a police body camera might be filming them. “Whenever you have an interaction with police,” Police Chief Ken DeSimone said in an interview, adding that means everywhere from public streets to private homes.
A nationwide push for police to wear body cameras has been underway in the wake of controversial police killings of civilians, such as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. Police in Atlanta, Brookhaven and Dunwoody are already either wearing body cameras or are in the process of rolling them out.
Sandy Springs previously tested TASER body cameras in a 2010 pilot program, but ended up going camera-free since then.
A specific date for starting the Sandy Springs body camera program was not announced, but Zgonc has previously said the department would like them in use by late April. The council’s decision allows city staff to negotiate and sign a formal contract with TASER.