PRINCETON: Police body cameras, video data storage could be pricey for town

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton will need to spend $200,000 to $250,000 to outfit all police officers with body cameras and pay for storing the video data, said a town official Tuesday.
The town received a $15,000 grant from the state to put toward that cost, but it represents only a small piece of the overall price tag, Councilwoman Heather H. Howard said by phone.
The body cameras and related equipment will be on list of capital expenses for 2017 that town administrator Marc D. Dashield will present to the council at its meeting Oct.24 to consider. Officials ultimately will have to decide what projects to fund or not, although body cameras have enjoyed wide support among the governing body.
Ms. Howard said the technology fosters “transparency” and community relations between police and the public. On one hand, they provide a level of comfort for people when dealing with the police, but they also provide a record of an event that police can have if they are ever accused of wrong-doing.
“I think everybody understands the need for them,” Mayor Liz Lempert said Tuesday.
Mayor Lempert said the cameras themselves are not the most expensive part but rather the hardware to store all the video data that officers would generate. There are around 50 officers in the police force, with camera prices as much as $399 each, according to a search on the Internet.
But financial considerations weighed on the mind of one official. Councilwoman Jo S. Butler said Tuesday that depending on how much buying the technology costs, it could change her views.
“If the cost is really significant, that might influence how I think about them,” she said as officials will need to prioritize their spending for next year.
She said she is not aware of an incident in town where officials thought body cameras might have come in handy. She said that while nationally the technology makes sense in a lot of towns, she does not think that Princeton is one of them.
“I do think, in Princeton, we generally have a safe community,” she continued. “So we’ll just see. I think they’re a luxury in this community.”