City to vote on repealing body-camera funding


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After a decision was made two months ago to approve funding for police body cameras, the plan may now go back to the drawing board.

The Iowa City City Council will vote at today’s meeting on whether it will rescind a resolution passed on Sept. 16 that approved funding for the police to purchase body cameras.

Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine requested this change so newer, cheaper technology can be considered.

The resolution’s estimated cost was around $211,000, which was to be used to purchase body cameras for police officers as well as storage for the recordings.

The department began testing body cameras earlier this year and saw enough success to prompt the Police Department’s Sept. 16 request to the City Council, said Geoff Fruin, the assistant to the city manager.

On Nov. 13, Hargadine sent an email to City Manager Tom Markus, asking the council repeal the resolution so the department could explore other options.

“I went to a conference last month, and there were much cheaper options,” Hargadine said. “The technology is changing weekly, and we found a cheaper way to do the same thing.”

In the email to Markus, Hargadine said that while he attended the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, he became aware of technology that would allow the department to use the car recording software it owns.

“The management software is huge … that’s a certainly large expense, and one option we’re looking at is doing it through the existing software that we already have licensed; that would be a major cost reduction,” Hargadine said.

The previous deal was with Wolfcom Enterprises, a California company.

But Hargadine said if the resolution is repealed, he is unsure of what companies the police would work with, as well as the cost.

Fruin said despite the ever-changing nature of technology, a decision has to eventually be made.

“You can be constantly waiting for technology to slow down, and you might be waiting for a long time and miss out on quite a bit of functionality, and we want to make sure that we try to keep a handle on what’s available out there,” Fruin said.

City Councilor Susan Mims said Hargadine’s request for the repeal isn’t likely to be the source of controversy.

“I think because you have so many police departments nationally going in this direction, companies are always developing new technology; it’s just a matter of timing,” she said. “We happened to be going out and doing this at a time when new technology was hitting.”

Hargadine said purchasing body cameras is similar to consumers buying the latest electronics.

“It’s kind of like buying a cell phone; once you sign a contract, a newer one comes out,” he said. “This technology is changing so fast.”

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