Body-worn cameras

Waco police Officer Garen Bynum wears a department-issued body-worn camera in September, during a press conference introducing the new equipment to the public.

McLennan County officials are considering new spending on data storage after a growing mountain of law enforcement video evidence overwhelmed the district attorney’s office storage system this month.

McLennan County IT Director Lisa Fetsch said the office ran into storage issues Jan. 10.

“This was not a hardware failure but a storage capacity issue that placed the storage unit in maintenance mode and placed the data in a read-only state,” Fetsch said.

The software the DA’s office uses to manage cases continued to operate, but access to files associated with the cases was blocked. The IT department started the tedious task of restoring data from backups and had the most critical functions restored by Jan. 14, Fetsch said. The district attorney’s office is now working out of various storage reserves, but it is a temporary solution, she said.

“We decided to take the opportunity to be proactive and look at their rate of storage consumption and the county as a whole,” she said.

One recent McLennan County misdemeanor case involved video evidence filling 69 DVDs, a prime example of how video from police body-worn and dash-mounted cameras creates a massive demand for storage, first assistant district attorney Nelson Barnes said.

“We’ve become a video world,” Barnes told county commissioners Tuesday. “Obviously we have a lot more misdemeanors than felonies, though almost as much video comes out of the misdemeanors as the felonies.”

Barnes and Fetsch recommended county commissioners invest more than $200,000 in a Dell EMC Isilon digital storage system that would expand the county’s storage capacity for all offices from 80 terabytes to 178 terabytes.

The system could be expanded to hold up to 68,000 terabytes, Precinct 3 County Commissioner Will Jones said.

Fetsch said the current Windows storage server has served the county well, but the recent issues show its limits.

“This event was an example of what a true disaster recovery event would feel like,” she said. “It has taken IT staff almost two weeks to restore approximately 20 terabytes of their most critical data, with many more files remaining. We have reviewed a more robust system that would allow for non-disruptive expansion and data migration that could support the unstructured data for all county offices.”

The proposed system would also allow the DA’s office to be more efficient with staff time and with physical resources, Nelson said. Defense attorneys in the case that required 69 DVDs, for example, would have been able to log in and download the evidence directly to their computer instead of waiting for DA staff to burn DVDs, he said.

The Waco Police Department introduced body-worn cameras for all officers in September. Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said the department has not had any storage issues since it started using the cameras.

The footage is managed by Amazon Web Services, Swanton said. 

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