PHX Council set to vote on police body cameras

Posted at 7:02 PM, May 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-17 14:28:19-04

On Tuesday the Phoenix City Council will vote on whether to add body camera for its entire police force.

City spokesperson Tammy Vo told ABC15 the proposal will cost the city $11.4 million over the next five years, and $5 million to maintain each year after that. 

"It comes down to what are the needs and what are the wants? The wants -- I want every police officer to have a body camera," said Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski. 

Despite that desire, Nowakowski may not be voting in favor of the proposal.  

"The needs at this time are more police officers and more programs to prevent crime, keep kids out of gangs," stressed Nowakowski.

RELATED: Phoenix receives 5 federal grants for body cameras

"If you don't have enough patrol officers, overtime goes way up, officers are getting tired - just a little more risk when that happens,"  said Andy Hill, a retired Phoenix police sergeant. 

Adding officers is not without its own long-term costs. 

"If you don't do body cams you can only add a small number of officers to the total because you have to pay them for salary and benefits for 20 years," said city spokesperson Robbie Sherwood.

City officials say the vote doesn't have to be an either or situation. 

Vo says the city is currently in the process of hiring 300 police officers and will hire another 150 next year, regardless of how Tuesday turns out. 

Hill says the current shortage of officers is putting each one at an increased risk, but also feels body cameras could save the city money when it comes to liability and lawsuits. 

"It's a win for everybody wanting to know the truth. It's going to pay off in demonstrating the actions of the officers and in a majority of cases it will support them," said Hill. 

Nowakowski said the highest costs of body cameras will likely come with processing and storing the cameras' data.  

"You're going to have to hire 30-40 employees -- that's 30 to 40 people just handling the cameras alone. And then on top of that we're going to buy storage space," said Nowakowski.

The city council will vote during its police session at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 17.