Body-worn Cameras Coming to Metro Nashville

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Police body cameras are used as evidence in convicting criminals and protecting the reputations of officers (Photo by: Chris Chitaroni | twenty20.com)
Police body cameras are used as evidence in convicting criminals and protecting the reputations of officers (Photo by: Chris Chitaroni | twenty20.com)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Metro Nashville is beginning full deployment of body-worn cameras.

As part of its response to the revenue shortfall caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Metro has renegotiated more favorable agreements with select vendors. As part of this process, Motorola, previously WatchGuard. Inc., the vendor selected by the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) in August 2019 to provide the department with in-car and body-worn cameras (BWCs), has agreed to delay payment for Nashville’s camera system for two years. That decision, along with creative problem-solving from local stakeholders, has allowed Metro to resume movement toward the full deployment of BWCs and in-car cameras.

“Body-worn cameras will promote trust between law enforcement officers and the communities they are sworn to serve,” said Mayor Cooper. “They will be an important tool in addressing racial injustice throughout Davidson County. Since campaigning for office, I have supported body-worn cameras in Nashville and the need to invest in this vital technology the right way. We are delivering on that commitment today, and we are doing it in a cost responsible way.”

Upon taking office last year, Mayor Cooper’s office found a body-worn camera initiative that had not yet addressed critical deployment issues. Protocols had for sharing video across the criminal justice system had not been developed. A report released in the fall predicted that implementing BWCs would cost Nashville taxpayers approximately $40 million dollars a year and require the DA’s office and the Public Defender’s Office to hire more than 200 new full-time employees. The Mayor’s Office immediately engaged with the US Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to assemble a working group of national experts to help Nashville develop a cost-effective approach to BWC deployment that reflected national best practices.

Today’s announcement is made possible by cost reductions from working with our departments and our vendor, Motorola. Over the course of five months of discussions, stakeholders developed a streamlined workflow that reduced the estimated annual costs of BWCs from approximately $40 million to approximately $2.1 million in FY 2021. Staffing requirements were reduced from an estimated 200 new staff to approximately 16 additional staff. The operating expenses for this deployment will come from the Public Health & Safety contingency fund for MNPD in the Mayor’s proposed FY2021 budget. The negotiations with Motorola have resulted in an agreement that payments will commence in FY2023.

“Body cameras will promote trust and accountability for law-enforcement and the people of Nashville,” said District Attorney General Glenn Funk. “I thank Mayor Cooper for prioritizing this project. These efforts will lead to a safer Nashville.”

“An encounter with law enforcement is not something that any Nashvillian should worry about having to survive,” said Council Member At-Large Sharon Hurt. “It’s no secret that Metro’s financial constraints are great, but Mayor Cooper has demonstrated through this effort, with IT infrastructure upgrades starting immediately and deployment rolling out in July, as a first step, that his commitment to create tangible change for our Black community is genuine.”

BWC deployment will begin next month at West Precinct, with 86 BWCs and 65 patrol cars outfitted. West Precinct is currently the only precinct with the IT infrastructure in place to support BWC and camera deployment. As part of the deployment process, patrol cars will also be equipped with three in-car cameras, which will provide additional perspectives on police incident responses and arrests. Work on the IT infrastructure upgrades necessary to support BWC deployment at the seven additional precincts and at the Metro Southeast will resume immediately.

Mayor Cooper has directed MNPD to complete precinct IT infrastructure upgrades within six months. BWC deployment to other precincts will begin no later than February 2021.

MNPD will provide monthly updates on the state of the IT buildout and on BWC deployment. Deployment will be completed when approximately 1,325 MNPD officers and 30 Metro Park Police officers are equipped with BWCS. To further enhance accountability, MNPD is installing in-car cameras in the department’s 734 patrol cars.

“This deployment will provide unprecedented clarity into how the police and residents interact,” said Mayor John Cooper. “I want to thank General Funk, Public Defender Johnson, and all of our criminal justice stakeholders for coming together around a plan that will make bodycams a success in Nashville. The wait for bodycams is over. Let me be clear: We are moving forward with full deployment as quickly as possible.”

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