Spokane County says "no thanks" to free body cameras, no charge for a year's worth of storage

click to enlarge Spokane County: Thanks, but no thanks.
Spokane County: Thanks, but no thanks.

Earlier this month, Axon (the company formerly known as Taser), announced that it is offering free body cameras and a year's subscription to its cloud storage service to any American law enforcement agency.

Even with the discount, Spokane County commissioners say it's unlikely that county Sheriff's deputies will start wearing what many police reform advocates say is an essential police accountability tool any time soon.

"Where are we going to get the biggest bang for the buck for the public?" Commissioner Al French says. "My suspicion is that means putting more deputies on the road than putting cameras on the ones we have."

In theory, French says, he's in favor of body cameras. Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich agrees.

"If I had half a million dollars I could throw at this, my world would be a whole lot better," French says. "I just don't have the funds. That's where the rub is."

At least some Spokane police officers have worn body cameras since 2014. Now, the entire force is outfitted with body cameras, and even upgraded to high-definition models with longer battery lives, according to the Spokesman-Review.

"The initial cost of the equipment is nothing compared to the storage fees," SPD Chief Craig Meidl writes in an email. "Once you throw in staff to redact requested body camera video and include the costs associated for officers' time spent downloading the footage every shift, it will easily cost several hundred thousand dollars per year."

The Spokesman reports that the initial three-year contract between SPD and Taser, the company that supplied 220 body cameras and a subscription to cloud-based storage for the footage, cost $550,000. That number does not include costs associated with public records requests for body camera footage.

Axon (formerly Taser) overshadows its competitors, including the Seattle-based VIEVU. From 2012 to 2016, the company's revenue totaled $90 million. For body cameras alone, Axon brought in $65.6 million in net sales in 2016, according to the Seattle Times.