City Approves Body Cameras, Other New Tech for Police

All of Lakeland’s sworn police officers will be equipped with body cameras, under a contract approved unanimously by the City Commission today. The contract with Axon Enterprises Inc. provides police with more equipment than they initially sought and keeps first-year expenses below the budgeted amount.

Commissioners Mike Musick and Bill Read, who had been skeptical of the cameras in the past, said today they were pleased that costs are locked in for 10 years and that the technology adds broad new capabilities to the Police Department.

Assistant Police Chief Hans Lehman said it might be the end of 2023 before all officers have the cameras, but Mayor Bill Mutz urged the department to try to complete the rollout by the end of 2022.

Our earlier article, published Friday:

Lakeland’s police department had good news for city commissioners Friday: When they went shopping for body cameras and related technology, they came up with more equipment than they initially planned and it will cost less money than was budgeted.

Commissioners were welcoming when they previewed the package at an agenda study session Friday morning.

“It’s a paradigm-shifting moment, if it gets approved” Mayor Bill Mutz said. “I personally am enthused.”

The package from Axon Enterprise Inc. includes equipment that integrates together and all data will be stored on Axon’s secure evidence.com cloud system, Assistant Police Chief Hans Lehman said.

The city’s finance department negotiated a deal that locks in the cost at $938,000 per year for 10 years and includes upgrades as equipment becomes outdated. The project includes hiring of two new employees and upgrading related equipment, bringing the annual cost to $1,041,900, nearly $40,000 less than the amount budgeted for 2022, according to a memo from the City Attorney’s Office.

The package includes:

  • 250 body-worn cameras, which “covers essentially every sworn officer in the department,” according to City Attorney Palmer Davis.
  • 250 tasers, replacing the department’s current stock of 7-year-old tasers using 10-year-old technology.
  • 165 in-car video systems, including license-plate reading technology and eliminating the current in-house storage of data.
  • Auto redaction software that blurs faces that are not part of an investigation and license plates in videos. This will help in complying with public records requests, Lehman said, and eliminates the need to manually redact, Mutz said.
  • Auto transcription, using artificial intelligence to transcribe the voices in a video. The transcriptions will be reviewed by department personnel for accuracy, Lehman said.
  • Citizen for Communities, a technology that makes it easy to upload citizen-offered technology such as video from doorbell cameras.
  • Unlimited cloud storage, eliminating the need for storing data on local servers or DVDs.
  • Three interview room camera sets.
  • 10 virtual reality training headsets, including modules to train officers in de-escalation techniques.

Initially, LPD had planned to buy 200 cameras and 240 tasers, but negotiations allowed them to buy more units while remaining under budget, according to the city attorney’s memo.

“Bringing all this together will certainly save a lot of manpower and time,” Police Chief Ruben Garcia said in response to a question from commissioners. “Although a lot of money is being spent, we’re getting a lot for that money — wrangling in a lot of loose ends, bringing them into one functional system.”

Asked if he had one concern about rolling out the system, Garcia said it would be educating the public that the two-dimensional video produced by the cameras doesn’t convey the totality of what an officer in the field experiences.

Mutz asked if there is any desired technology that’s not included in the package. Lehman said Lakeland isn’t getting any of Axon’s drone technology, but that could be added later. But he also said the package Lakeland is getting “is the one that we felt had everything that we needed.”

Video: Police equipment discussion

Agenda Study & Committees – December 3, 2021 from City of Lakeland on Vimeo.

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