NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nashville Mayor John Cooper released his timeline Tuesday for equipping Metro officers with body-worn cameras.
The announcement followed months of discussions between the Mayor’s Office, Metro police, the District Attorney’s Office and Metro Information Technology Services, as well as the Public Defender’s Office, other criminal justice agencies and community stakeholders.
“Nashville’s residents and police officers have been anxiously waiting for body-worn cameras since the initial announcement three years ago,” Mayor John Cooper said in a statement.
He added: “I understand and share the community’s frustration over the wait. Basic questions about how video will be used and shared hadn’t been addressed. In my first two and a half months in office, I’ve made sure that we continue to move forward with body-worn cameras as quickly and responsibly as possible. Thanks to the hard work of personnel across Metro, we now have a roadmap for implementing cameras. I’m excited that we can now move from talking about cameras to deploying them.”
Mayor Cooper said cost was one issue that slowed the process of deploying the cameras. A report commissioned by District Attorney Glenn Funk and released last week estimated full deployment of the body-worn cameras would cost the city more than $36-million per year.
According to the mayor, Metro agencies had not yet finalized policies for determining how video captured by police cameras would be shared with the District Attorney, the Public Defender, private defense attorneys, the Courts and the public. Mayor Cooper added the process was also slowed because Metro had not yet built out the infrastructure to support wireless uploads of video at the city’s eight police precincts.
Mayor Cooper said his office will meet with the Criminal Justice Advisory Board later this week to begin the process of working through remaining policy issues.
In January, the mayor explained his office will host a one-day technical advisory workshop, staffed by national experts who have worked with the U.S. Department of Justice to develop and facilitate body-worn cameras implementation in other cities, to create an implementation plan for Nashville. It will also host a community workshop to educate Nashville residents about policy options and solicit public input, he revealed.
During the policy-making process, Cooper said Metro police and Metro Information Technology Services will continue to build out the necessary infrastructure for police officers to wirelessly upload video at Nashville’s eight precincts. According to Metro police, the timetable for completing the work required to begin to upload body-worn camera footage wirelessly will be completed at the Metro Southeast facility in March, Mayor Cooper added.
As soon as that work is completed, the mayor explained Metro police will deploy approximately two dozen body-worn cameras to officers in its DUI and Traffic Enforcement Units to test the new network. DUI and Traffic Enforcement Units will also upgrade their in-car camera systems as part of a department-wide upgrade of computer-assisted dispatch/record management software systems.
Mayor Cooper said Metro police and Metro Information Technology Services expects to complete the work of equipping all eight precincts with the ability to upload video camera footage wirelessly by May. That month, Metro police will deploy an additional 20 body-worn cameras in “beta” for three months. The purpose of the beta rollout is to determine all-in costs and fine-tune operational procedures, Cooper added.
The pilot will last for three to six months, at which point the mayor’s office will evaluate the results with expert technical advisers. Running body-worn cameras in ‘beta’ will help the public and policymakers determine the costs and complexities of a wider deployment, Cooper explained.
“It’s important that we get this done, and it’s important that we get it right,” Mayor Cooper explained. “This plan puts cameras in the field as soon as the infrastructure is there to support them and allows us to learn what works in the process.”
Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk released a statement to News 2 following the Mayor’s announcement.
“I appreciate Mayor Cooper taking steps to fulfill our city’s commitment to implement body cameras,” Funk said. “I look forward to working together with all agencies in the criminal justice system to provide this new evidence promptly while protecting the rights of victims and witnesses.”
This is a developing story. Stay with News 2 and WKRN.com for updates.