By Jim Bloch
Marysville’s fleet of police-rated Chevrolet Tahoes will soon be sporting new video systems and so will the officers who drive them.
The city council unanimously approved a five-year lease of video equipment from Axon, with annual payments of $34,452. The purchase price was $168,194
The system includes 14 body cameras, two camera docks, five patrol cameras, video storage, software, installation, 14 Tasers, upgrades, vehicle modems and a five-year warranty.
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The department’s current body cameras are first generation; the new ones will be third generation. Its current Tasers are second generation; the new ones will be third generation.
The system offered by WatchGuard was slightly cheaper, with a five-year annual lease at $32,532 and an outright purchase price of $162,660.
“We currently have a working relationship with Axon,” said Public Safety Chief Tom Konik, as heard on the video of the proceedings posted on the city’s website. “They provide our Tasers. We currently lease those for $4,400 a year. The other vendor doesn’t offer that. So if you back that out and just compare cameras to cameras, Axon actually comes in a couple thousand dollars less.”
The Axon system has a number of other features that the WatchGuard system was lacking. For example, the Axon system allows citizen and business owners to upload video and picture evidence directly to the city’s evidence server. It allows officers to upload digital photos, audio recordings and cell phone video directly to the evidence server. It converts all body cam video recordings to text so officers can enter it directly into their written reports. The system automatically labels recordings with dispatch call information for easy identification and tracking. The system allows for controlled access to recordings by courts, eliminating the staff time needed to duplicate records for the prosecution. Axon also provides for unlimited batteries and Taser cartridges.
“In the past few weeks, we have suffered significant failures to many parts of our current system,” said Konik in a memo to City Manager Randy Fernandez dated March 17. “Our current system is reaching end-of-life with some components dating back to 2015. We had been researching options for the upcoming budget recommended by our IT consultants at the Regional Educational Service Agency.”
But the situation has become dire.
“We do not feel at this time that it is fiscally responsible to continue spending money on repairs,” said Konik.
“We began looking for quotes from qualified vendors to replace our system,” Konik said at the meeting. “We normally keep a stock of spare parts on hand for our body cameras that take the most abuse, but we’re all out of current spares.”
The department owns its current, outdated system. By leasing, the video system includes a five-year, unconditional maintenance agreement.
“If anything breaks, they replace it,” said Konik. “We also get new body cameras cycled in every two-and-a-half years.”
The department will own the equipment at the end of five years. It may then renew the lease with new equipment or walk away and look for a new vendor, the chief said.
The council approved the lease 6-0; member Dave Barber was absent.
Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at email@example.com.