NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Mayor John Cooper has announced a plan to begin deploying body cameras to Metro Police officers beginning next year.
The announcement follows months of discussions between the Mayor's Office and other local agencies. Mayor Cooper's Office plans to meet with the Criminal Justice Advisory Board later this week to begin the process of working through policy issues.
Over the next couple of months, the necessary infrastructure will be built for police officers to wirelessly upload video at Nashville's eight police precincts. According to MNPD, the timetable for completing the work to begin to upload body camera footage wirelessly for the first Metro department will be completed in March.
As soon as the work is completed, MNPD will deploy around two dozen body cameras to officers in DUI and Traffic Enforcement to test the new network. The dash cameras will also be upgraded as part of a department-wide upgrade of computer systems.
MNPD and Metro Information Technology Services plan to equip all eight precincts with the ability to upload video camera footage wirelessly by May, when an additional 20 body cameras will be deployed in beta for three months to determine costs and fine-tune operations.
The pilot program will last three to six months at which point the Mayor's Office will evaluate the results with an advisory team.
“Nashville’s residents and police officers have been anxiously waiting for body-worn cameras since the initial announcement three years ago,” said Mayor John Cooper. “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.”
According to the Mayor's Office, several issues including policies and potential cost have played a factor in the delay of deployment. An earlier report from the District Attorney's Office estimated that the deploying of body cameras would cost the city of Nashville around $36 million per year.
The Mayor's Office and other local agencies are expected to inform the community how the body cameras will work and will be seeking community input on where and how the first set of cameras should be deployed.
Cooper’s office said he understands the community is frustrated about the wait, but he wants to move forward responsibly.
One of the most vocal groups calling for police body cameras is Justice for Jocques. The group is pusing for an end to the delays. The group is named for Jocques Clemmons, who was shot and killed by a Metro Police officer in February 2017.
The group rallied outside Metro Council chambers last week, saying they’re not laying down anymore and want action.
Theeda Murphy, one of the leaders of the group, had this reaction to the new timeline announced on Tuesday.
“Last week they were saying it was indefinite, so hearing that they actually have a plan to roll these out is a good thing,” Murphy said. “We’re disappointed that it is yet another test, but it seems this time they are really talking about policy.”
There are several reasons for the delays. Lots of practical questions like how do you store the video from the body cameras, how do you decide what to save, how many people do you have to have on staff to be able to get that video to prosecutors and defense attorneys quickly?
Last week a report commissioned by the District Attorney General’s office estimated the total cost could be $36 million a year. That’s why the Mayor’s office wants to do a pilot program first, to figure out the costs and the complications before a full roll-out.
The Community Oversight Board is furious on two fronts, that it seems like the city is starting over and it wasn’t involved.
“Our participation is vital,” said Chair Ashlee Davis in a news release. “The COB must be at the table early and often for discussions related to BWCs and a full implementation cannot wait any longer.”