OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Deputy chief of Omaha Police Kerry Neumann says when OPD adopted body cameras three years it seemed like a no brainer. The cams serve as unbiased witness in courts, being able to tell the story of what happened at crimes scenes.
But OPD quickly ran into a problem.
"Agencies around the country struggle with this same thing it's one of the hottest topics that we see in law enforcement right not, is now that we have these cameras, here comes this huge amount of digital evidence. How do we manage it," says Neumann.
State law requires body cam videos be stored for at least 90 days. OPD’s policy is to keep them for 120 days. So they built what's called the DREAM unit (short for digitally recorded evidence access and management) - a room inside their headquarters where they can locate all the video they collect, and spit it out on to a disc, when requested by the courts.
The cost is high. OPD has spent just over $2 million on their body cam program, about two-thirds of which is spent simply storing the digital evidence. Thankfully for the taxpayer, the Omaha Police Foundation has paid for the bulk of the cost.
"Quite frankly the Omaha Police Department is on the cutting edge of management of video evidence," says Neumann.
Down the road in Wahoo, they actually went away from their body camera program a couple of years ago. That's because the cost of storage was just too high.
Their current chief Bruce Ferrell is a former OPD officer and knows the benefits of body cams.
That's why he's thinking about going back to the program the previous chief got rid of. But, he needs to find a cheaper option. The $15,000 cost was too much for the city of around 4,500 people.
"With the cost of the external hard drives now you can probably buy one for now between $500 and $1,000 which is significantly less expensive than what was previously thought," says Ferrell.
While OPD pays much more. They say it's worth every penny and plans to have every officer fully equipped by the end of 2019.