Outdated and incompatible technology has plagued the New Orleans Police Department's (NOPD) dashboard-mounted cameras, which are supposed to record officer interactions with the public. Police Chief Michael Harrison told the New Orleans City Council's Criminal Justice Committee last week that the department's older-model servers (from 2008) can't keep up with the new cameras, which record and automatically upload footage from the car once it pulls up to the station. "There's a lot of moving parts, and they malfunction quite frequently," Harrison said.
The system isn't working in the NOPD's 2nd, 4th and 7th districts and at its Special Operations Division. While more than three-quarters of NOPD's fleet is equipped with fully functional cameras, only five of the nine department servers are working. Harrison said the department has ordered new servers.
"It's a beautiful thing that we're able to buy new equipment," Harrison said, "and we're anxiously waiting for it to arrive so we can begin using it."
NOPD's 440 body-mounted cameras are assigned to officers working in the field, from traffic duty to responding to citizens' calls for service. Officers are instructed to turn on the cameras "upon initial citizen contact," but Harrison said they are now being trained to turn them on as soon as they step out of their car. Since NOPD started its body-cam program, 89 camera-related cases have been brought to the NOPD's Public Integrity Bureau. Of those cases, 26 led to hearings, 12 are still pending and 42 are under investigation. Six officers have been exonerated, and three cases were deemed unfounded.
As Harrison told Gambit in a cover story interview earlier this month (March 17, 2015), an officer's first offense for turning off his or her camera is a one-day suspension. Harrison has handed down 25 of them. A second offense carries up to a 10-day suspension. Harrison has issued one five-day suspension for a second offense.