Indiana law limits the cost of obtaining police body camera and dash camera recordings to the cost of recording it, capping at $150, which was the original minimum cost. The Bloomington City Council recently had its second hearing to consider lowering costs.
These are public record, and citizens have a right to acquire this footage without an excessive burden. This is a move that should not only be exercised by Bloomington, but by all communities not adhering to the same standard.
The most glaring concern when considering the issue is that of affordability. According to Time, police departments in some cities can generate up to 10,000 hours of footage a week. To store this film, departments have begun to rely on private, large-capacity storage companies to hold on to footage for as long as possible.
Although not specifically outlined in Bloomington’s 2019 Annual Budget, the typical yearly cost of a body camera for a single officer, data storage included, typically comes to around $1,000.
If all Bloomington police officers must wear body cameras, the cost to equip the entire city’s 103 sworn officers and detectives when engaging with the public comes to just over $100,000. This is of course if all officers were required to wear cameras at all times, which they don't.
Dash camera footage costs vary broadly. Still they are not too expensive to consider possibly lowering the cost to acquire them, as evidenced by the recent hearings.
Bloomington has approved over $91 million in funds toward its governmental programs for the fiscal year, many would be quick to agree that lowering the cost for civilians to acquire footage are welcomed losses in assuring the public feels the police department is being extra accountable.
Not only should the cost to the city be considered, but the cost to citizens must be as well. In 2017, the median household income in Bloomington was $49,043. Acquiring body camera footage for less than $150 could alleviate some costs of lengthy legal proceedings, or overturn convictions entirely.
Body camera and dash camera footage has frequently held officers accountable for their actions when interacting with the public. While body camera footage should not be seen as a vehicle to viciously search for mistakes, it can serve to clear up inconsistencies in certain situations.
There’s no reason to not make the footage available to citizens for the cost of collecting it. It supports the public’s interest in transparency by the Bloomington Police Department.
With all the trust placed in officers, it is imperative that citizens of Bloomington, and all other communities, have a greater level of access to the way officers perform their jobs.
This is a move that should not only be fully endorsed by the City of Bloomington, but by all other cities in Indiana not following the same practice.