The Hays City Commission will discuss the pros and cons of implementing body-worn cameras in the Hays Police Department during Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. work session. The issue was brought forth by Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV, who asked city staff to study possible benefits and costs.
City staff is not recommending the technology be implemented at this time due to financial constraints. It would cost approximately $100,000 for the first year, with a total five-year cost estimate of approximately $400,000.
“We don’t have anything budgeted this year,” Assistant City Manager Jacob Wood said.
Police Chief Don Scheibler spoke with several police departments that have implemented the body-worn cameras, and all emphasized the importance of hiring a program manager to maintain the high volume of video footage.
The annual cost for wages and benefits of an additional full-time employee is approximately $55,000.
“We are already short-staffed with officers. We don’t have someone we can say, ‘Here’s an additional duty we’d like you to take on,’ ” Wood said. “We would have to hire somebody to do that.”
The city’s 2017 budget did not allow for the addition of any full-time employees, and departments have been asked to trim expenses wherever possible, as sales tax revenues have declined for most of the last year.
In a memo to commissioners, Scheibler said he supports future implementation of the cameras. The technology could further enhance transparency and accountability for officers and residents. It also could help reduce use of force incidents, complaints of officer misconduct and liability claims, and could provide valuable evidence to be used in court, Scheibler wrote.
“However, managing the video data produced by body-wearing cameras will be a significant logistical and financial challenge,” Scheibler stated in the memo.
It is estimated approximately one-third of U.S. law enforcement agencies now use body-wearing cameras.
The Hays Police Department has used audio recorders since 1995 to capture officers’ interactions with the public. Those recorders were upgraded this year.
Patrol vehicles also have been equipped with in-car video cameras beginning in 2001; that system was upgraded in 2015.
A body-worn camera is a small recording device that is worn on the officer that can make audio and visual recordings. The technology is considered the “next step” in technology used to record police interactions and document operations, Scheibler wrote.
Other items on Thursday’s agenda include:
• 2015 international code adoption.
• An update on the city’s water supply and conservation issues.