Cameras cost Kyle cops: $82K annual fee OKed after holes found in police video storage system

Mixed reactions from city leaders earlier this month welcomed the Kyle Police Department’s proposed $82,000 annual expense for a new data storage system for in-car and body-worn cameras.

While the Kyle City Council gave City Manager Scott Sellers the green light to start negotiations with Axon for the storage system, which also includes 50 body worn and several in-dashboard cameras, as well as 50 tasers, Mayor Todd Webster was concerned about the request’s timing near the height of budget discussions.

Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett said the new cloud-based storage system is needed to replace malfunctioning software. 

Barnett said June 20 the Axon system would replace the city’s current storage unit, purchased from Data 911, which was found to split in-dash camera videos recorded during an arrest or traffic stop.

The issue, which was found over the last few months, occurs when an officer completes a traffic stop or arrest and enters the video into the Data 911 system at the Kyle Police station. The information is labeled in the event Kyle Police may need to burn the video to a DVD for open records or a criminal case.

“What we’ve learned is the system, without any rhyme or reason or any solving from the company, is splitting the video (in half) and not tagging the video in its completeness,” Barnett said.

He added the video, which can be used in criminal cases, could be deleted if it’s not found by Kyle Police.

One vehicle in the Kyle Police force had 50 videos on its storage device the department “didn’t know were there,” Barnett said.

Axon’s cloud-based system would include an initial $120,000 cost the first year. The initial cost would apply in November and be included in Fiscal Year 2018-19 budget. Every year after that, the department would spend $82,000 annually.

The contract doesn’t include license plate reader technology. Signing the contract does not mean that Kyle would possibly join a co-located 911 facility in the county, Barnett said.

Kyle Police is currently the only department that doesn’t use the Axon system, Barnett said. San Marcos, Texas State and Buda Police, as well as Hays County Sheriff’s office use Axon, which Barnett said is preferred by the Hays County District Attorney’s office.

The system allows the department to scan video and documents, which can be obtained by the DA, to the cloud. Barnett said the system could reduce the hard copies and DVDs burned by Kyle Police for cases.

Sellers said the Axon system would also reduce the man-hours needed by Kyle Police to enter data into its current system. City officials found police officers spent an average of 90 minutes entering and labeling data.

Barnett said the department plans to use $11,000 budgeted this year for tasers toward the initial $120,000. Sellers said the city plans to uphold its current contract with Data 911 until September. Barnett said the department is seeking advice with Frank Garza, Kyle’s city attorney, regarding the contract.

Shane Arabie, Kyle District 1 city councilmember, said he wasn’t objecting to the system, but the timing of the proposal. He also was concerned city leaders were being asked to take action on appropriating money without a contract first.

Sellers said the city would initially send a letter of intent to Axon. The move would eliminate three to four months of the process to get the Axon equipment.

While Sellers said the department does need personnel, city officials believed they could absorb some of the cost for people this year by “supplementing technology to keep them out in the field.”

Webster said his issue isn’t with the concept of the proposal, but having conversations “in isolation” with other items that may be part of the police department’s budget request.

Webster also believed the proposal was less about an unanticipated emergency, and more about the police having “something better than we have.”

“This doesn’t come off to me as an actual emergency type thing. This coming up this close to the budget, it raises a lot of suspicion to me,” Webster said. “It’s not a lack of trust in the police department or you. But I feel uncomfortable with that.” 

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