You have the potential to create a huge mountain of video. —Chris Burbank
SALT LAKE CITY — Next month, Salt Lake police are expecting to receive another 80 body cameras that officers will soon be wearing, recording their daily actions.
Police Chief Chris Burbank expects to store a majority of the video captured by the body cameras for about a year. But the ACLU has expressed concerns that that time frame is far too long and may tempt the department to use the information for different purposes.
Burbank said some of the cameras are already in use in the field, recording what officers see, do and how they interact with people. The cameras fit right on the side of a set of glasses.
“You have the potential to create a huge mountain of video,” Burbank said.
The chief said the department intends to be responsible with the video and with the data it collects and retains. The policy that will guide the cameras’ use will include a “purge schedule.”
“One of our biggest responsibilities is how do we then purge that information,” Burbank said. “The majority of things will be held for a year’s time frame. Some will be a little less than that, some potentially a little more than that. So an ongoing investigation, a criminal act that is captured, will in essence be held until that case is adjudicated.”
“Simple interactions — let’s say an officer is involved in a traffic stop — those will go away much quicker because there’s absolutely no reason to retain those except under the circumstance that, let’s say someone calls and complains the officer was rude or anything else. Then we would keep that information for the duration of the complaint that exists against the officer while we conduct that investigation,” he said.
Burbank said he sees value in live recording body cams in everything from active shooter situations to crime scene investigations. Detectives as they enter scenes can go back to what they saw as they entered the area, rather than trying to remember it in notes they write down later.
ACLU of Utah legislative and policy counsel Marina Lowe believes the police department has done a “good job” of trying to craft a policy governing the use of the cameras. But she still has some reservations.
Lowe believes the videos should be kept for a much shorter period of time — more like 30 to 60 days.
“It starts becoming problematic to keep that data and you introduce the possibility that the data will be used for other purposes,” she said.
Lowe said the department’s policy should also allow the public access to the video. That way, someone who wants to challenge an officer’s actions can also request the tape.
“We would strongly suggest that anytime these new technologies are being deployed that we’re looking at our policies to make sure there are limits,” Lowe said.
Burbank said he doesn’t anticipate a significant growth in the static cameras stationed within the city. He said the city operates four surveillance cameras at Pioneer Park and has access to state-controlled traffic cameras.
“What I’m more interested in is capturing what my officers are involved in,” he said.