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EL looks to upgrade police technology

The East Liverpool Police Department currently uses a Fortify body camera system from Blue Line Innovations (sister company to the traffic camera company); however, they are looking to upgrade the system to one either offered by Axom or WatchGuard due to issues with battery strength and expense. This is a photo of the current system, which includes a docking station where officers can download their body camera footage and recharge the batteries. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

EAST LIVERPOOL — City officials recently teamed up with Police Chief John Lane to make some much needed technological upgrades to his department.

City council’s Finance Committee agreed to recommend that Lane’s request to transfer the remaining $44,667 in the Law Enforcement Fund to help fund the purchase of upgraded body cameras be approved by council as a whole during Monday’s regular meeting.

The current camera system has its issues with equipment failures, and the need to spend $1,200 a month or $24,000 a year for storage of the body camera footage on their server, a fact that councilmembers just have recently learned since previously that cost was paid out of the traffic camera funds.

The current camera company is a sister company of Blue Line Solutions, which had contracted with the city to handle the traffic cameras within city limits.

Mayor Greg Bricker also announced Tuesday that he has found a solution to the storage issue. He has contracted with a Youngstown-based company called Peak I.T. to purchase a server for $6,000 out of C.A.R.E.S. Act money, potentially saving the department $8,000 this year and $14,400 every year going forward.

Chief Lane explained that the cameras, which the department purchased from several years ago as part of a special deal, tend to only hold four hours of data in between battery charge, because of the 360 degree capability when worn at a scene recording data.

Most cameras last 12 hours and just record the scene straight on.

Most officers work a standard eight-hour shift, and if he would tend to be extremely active, popping in a freshly charged battery is not an option as the batteries are built into the unit.

To charge the Fortify system, officers have to place their entire camera into a docking unit where they download the contents to a cloud-based storage system offsite and recharge their battery.

Just like with one’s cellular phone or laptop computer battery, each time that one tends to recharge the battery, a little of the capacity is lost along the way.

Mayor Bricker assures this new server will be dedicated exclusively to house the camera footage. Information about the server’s size and other capabilities were not readily available Thursday morning.

Chief Lane said the department originally had outsourced the housing of the footage, as they didn’t really have a technical person on staff to handle the computers.

The department hasn’t decided whether they are going with Axon body cameras, like St. Clair Township currently has, or WatchGuard, which St. Clair Township is considering switching to. Both systems tend to last three times as long as the Fortify cameras East Liverpool currently is using.

Earlier this week, Chief Lane said the department also received a reimbursement check of $15,218.25 from the Ohio Attorney General’s for an expenditure last year of $21,000 for 20 bulletproof vests. He expects that money to also go into the cameras or fill some other department need.

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