Police departments are coming under increasing pressure to have officers wear body cameras as a way to build trust with the communities they serve. Eyewitness News spoke with the Fresno and Clovis police departments about how they‘re balancing these demands with limited budgets.

By KATHRYN HERR | February 7, 2017

Police departments are coming under increasing pressure to have officers wear body cameras, as a way to build trust with the communities they serve. Fresno and Clovis police departments provide them for most of their officers.

But with the new technology come new, added costs. For the cameras themselves and all the computer space it takes to store the video.

Eyewitness News spoke with departments about how they're balancing the demands with limited budgets.

It's a firsthand, eyewitness view of the life and death confrontations that occur on our streets.

Something the public is now sometimes privy to because of body cameras worn by police.

Police Body cam

"Body-worn camera video was never intended to be utilized as part of a reality television show. It is for the purpose of capturing evidence to assist the officer in doing their job," explained Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.

Dyer instituted body cameras for his officers about two years ago.

"When you look across America, the demand was for officers to wear body-worn cameras. So we were one of the first agencies in the nation to go forward with that," Dyer said.

It hasn't been cheap. The Fresno Police Department has 400 cameras at a cost of 2.6 million dollars for a five year contract.

The Fresno Police Department has 400 cameras at a cost of 2.6 million dollars for a five year contract

Just over a million of that came from grant money. Another million from the city of Fresno's general fund. And the remaining 500-thousand dollars came from a private donation.

"It is a matter of priorities, because that money could be used for police radios, patrol rifles or police cars. But in this instance I felt the priority in our department needed to be the body-worn camera videos," Dyer said.

Most of the officers on patrol wear body cameras. It's up to the officers to turn the body cameras on. The cameras don't run constantly, there's not enough battery power for a full work shift.

"As soon as I get dispatched to the call I start recording,” Officer Miguel Archan said. “That way it captures the drive to the call. Because once you get there you never know what's going to happen."

Officer Archan has worn a body camera for two years now. On the day Eyewitness News rode with him, officer Archan was sent to check on a woman passed out in an alley.

"Somebody called they thought you were dead, No?" Archan said to the woman. "Oh wow," she replied.

His body camera recorded the encounter.

"I felt the priority in our department needed to be the body-worn camera videos."

Archan asked her: "What's your name young lady?" She replied: "Hey bro, I'm fine."

Archan: "What's you're name?" The woman replied: "My name is 'I'm fine.’" Another officer arrived and told her: "Just want to make sure you're OK." The woman got agitated: "I'm fine!"

The woman appeared to be drunk. She got agitated when officers want paramedics to examine her.

Woman: "Leave me the (expletive) alone," she said loudly. Officer: "OK, calm down." Woman: "Why don't you go?" Another officer: "What's the date today?" Woman: "Why don't you go?"

The officers learn the woman lives nearby. She agrees to go home.

Archan flags the video footage of the encounter so if someone pulls up the call, they will see there is body camera video.

"Just because she left now doesn't mean that later on she can't call the police department and make an accusation of what may or may not have happened here. Sergeant has same access that we do to video and can go back in there and review the video footage," Archan said.

The Clovis Police Department only has 15 body cameras – and a limited amount of data storage.

At the end of his shift, officer Archan uploads all of the footage recorded during his shift to a website – which saves it to a cloud or remote server, separate from the department's computer system.

If multiple officers are on the same call or case – like the woman passed out in the alley – the video from each of their body cameras will be saved to the cloud. Three different viewpoints of the same call.

"There's an enormous requirement for storage capacity because it is video. And it's quality video. So the cost for that storage, if we were to put it on servers, would be phenomenal," Dyer said.

The Fresno Police Department pays for unlimited storage. It's part of that five-year, 2.6 million dollar contract with the company that provides the 400 body cameras to the department.

Other departments have smaller contracts. The Clovis Police Department only has 15 body cameras – and a limited amount of data storage.

"The one thing we're finding is that storage is going to cost us a lot more money than even what we're projecting right now. It just gets used up so fast," Clovis Police Chief Matt Basgall said.

"We'd have to come up with $100,000 per year just to cover the cost of storage."

Basgall said his department will have to buy more storage because the videos need to be saved for at least a few months – some are saved for years. That's in addition to the new footage that is saved by each officer, after each shift – every day.

"We figure each officer would cost about a thousand dollars per officer just for the storage going forward. So say we had a hundred officers that were wearing cameras. We'd have to come up with 100-thousand dollars per year just to cover the cost of storage," Basgall said.

He said that may lead to cuts in other areas of his budget to keep the body cameras.

Uploading body cam footage to the cloud

"If it got to the point where everybody had to have a body-worn camera, you could see the reduction in positions. Instead of getting a police officer position that year as you're trying to grow, you may have to trade that position off in order to pay for body cameras," Basgall said.

Despite the cost, both Basgall and Dyer see the advantages of body cameras.

The video has been helpful in gaining convictions in court.

And it was helpful in calming the public outcry in the highly-publicized police shooting of 19-year-old Dylan Noble (click here for more history on the Dylan Noble case).

Releasing the body cam footage to the public did relieve some of the unrest surrounding the case, but Dyer doesn't intend to do that for every police shooting.

"It's not necessarily for public consumption – for people to see on the nightly news and then make a determination whether or not they believe an officer acted appropriately or not. We have those venues established to make those decisions and it's called the court of law," Dyer said.

Dyer has plans to add another 164 body cameras for a total of 564 cameras. That will provide cameras for the majority of his officers.

Dyer said, "I would not ever want to see us go back to the point to where we didn't have those cameras on our officers, especially in today's environment.”

Dyer has plans to add another 164 body cameras for a total of 564 cameras

Web History of the Dylan Noble case

Noble’s case made national headlines.

Noble, 19, was shot and killed during a traffic stop by Fresno police officers. The body cam footage helped tell the story of what transpired during that traffic stop.

On June 25, 2016 Fresno Police received a call about a person armed with a rifle or a shotgun, in the area of Clinton and Clovis avenues. When officers responded, they came across Noble, who was seen on a police dashcam peeling out in front of the officers. Officers pursued him and stopped at a nearby Chevron gas station.

Footage released from a bystander

On July 6, a video that captured part of the deadly shooting was released by a law firm representing Noble's family. The video from a bystander only showed part of what happened, with the crucial seconds leading up to the first shots being fired not seen.

The video was also released on the day the family held a private memorial service for Noble. It was shot from behind the wall of the gas station.

On the video, officers can be heard shouting commands at Noble, who was on the ground. Then a shot was heard along with more shouting as officers still had their guns drawn.

Then another shot. Four shots in total between the two officers.

Noble can be heard in the video saying, "I've been shot."

The video caused another uproar of unrest.

After showing the footage to Noble's family, Dyer released the officer's body cam footage to the public.

Still from released police body cam footage of the Dylan Noble case

"The officer was giving commands to [Noble] to show his hands not knowing whether or not he was the person that was called, the individual would not show his right hand," Dyer said. "Then he started rapidly walking towards the officers and made a comment, 'I hate my life,' and then pulled his hand quickly, and that's when the officer fired," Dyer said.

Noble did, in fact, act in the way that Dyer described. And the toxicology report from Noble's autopsy showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.12, which is above the legal limit. He also had a trace element of a chemical often associated with cocaine use.

The release of the body camera video quelled some of the unrest. But attorneys for Noble's family questioned whether every shot fired by police was necessary.

On Dec. 9, 2016, Dyer held a press conference and announced the findings of the review of the case. The Fresno County District Attorney’s office would not file charges, and Dyer said his officers acted within the law.

"As the police chief, I hold our officers to a higher standard"

According to Dyer, a frame by frame review of the officer's body cam footage revealed that after being shot, Noble made moves which made the officers fear for their lives causing them to open fire, but what caused anger and outcry from the community was the fourth and final shot. Noble had been lying on his back for 14 seconds after the previous three shots when an officer fired his shotgun.

"As the police chief, I hold our officers to a higher standard. As such, I have determined that the officer who fired the fourth and final round did not use the appropriate tactics in addressing the threat presented by Dylan Noble during that 14-second period between the third and fourth gunshots," Dyer said.

He did not publicly say what corrective measures were taken against the officer but assured that the officer would be held accountable, and the entire department will undergo more training and said their policies will be modified.

Police Body Camera Statistics


Body cameras owned by the Fresno Police Department



Million dollars for a five year contract for the Fresno Police Department



Estimated cost per officer for digital storage

How Police Body Cam Footage Is Archived

  • Camera is turned on prior to the arrival in order to capture the drive to the call

  • Recorded footage from camera is flagged and logged

  • Footage is uploaded to a remote server, separate from the police department’s computer system




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