The introduction of body-worn camera (BWC) footage as a tool used by law enforcement has created a wealth of new public records. The resulting video and audio footage is used not only as evidence but also as a method for building transparency and accountability in the community. In the domain of public records, BWC footage has resulted in:

  • An abundance of footage and a growing need for more resources
  • More laborious redaction processes
  • Costs associated with storing and providing video and audio records
  • Greater public demand for access to footage
  • Identification and accelerated release of “critical incident” recordings

These wide-ranging implications are impacting every jurisdiction which has adopted the use of BWCs in their law enforcement, a rate which is growing as more mandates reach across the country. Request volume is on the rise; add to that the complexity of video and audio records and increased processing and storage costs — and managing video and audio redactions quickly becomes a top priority for government agencies.

Growing Complexity Adds Processing Time

Nearly every request for video or audio footage requires some level of redaction to protect sensitive, confidential, or proprietary information which adds to the complexity of processing these requests. GovQA’s Peers in Public Records Index points out that public records complexity has increased 151% since Q1 2018. This complexity adds time, requires additional resources, and can lead to delays and backlogs in requests when technology isn’t fully utilized.

According to a recent webinar conducted by GovQA, in partnership with Veritone, the average officer equipped with BWC produces 32 files, 7 hours, and 20GB of video per month. To put this in perspective, it requires 5-10 hours for a human to manually redact just one hour of video using traditional tools. And when more than one BWC-equipped officer responds to a call, the amount of video captured and time required for redaction can grow exponentially. 

The amount of video files contained in public records requests has increased 122% since the PiPRIndex began in 2018.  And request volumes during the first quarter of 2021 saw agencies spending 268% more time processing requests over the last year.

Increased Costs Associated with Video & Audio Records

Since video and audio redaction requires so much more additional time to process than document redaction, more dedicated resources are typically assigned to video redaction requests. Additionally, video and audio records have huge file sizes and agencies incur costs for storing these files for the necessary amount of time required by law. At 5-10 hours of redaction per hour, staff time quickly adds up. Some jurisdictions have begun to question how to accommodate these requests, remain compliant, and recoup costs.

A recent ruling in California rejected the notion that government agencies should be allowed to charge for editing video footage. The precedent-setting ruling determined that allowing governments to charge for redaction would have “threatened public access to all electronic records.” As a result, jurisdictions are working to strike a balance between processing video redaction requests in a timely manner and doing so in a cost-effective manner.

Automating Redaction of Video and Audio Records

Combining AI with request processing automation allows jurisdictions to deliver results and remain compliant. On average, government agencies that embrace technology and automate processes will spend up to 90% less time processing requests and remain in compliance with all legal requirements. Among the other benefits of using AI video and audio redaction technology paired with automated workflow software, government agencies will realize:

  • End-to-end public records request processing
  • 90% time savings and 20% volume reduction
  • No limits on file sizes or types
  • Fast training for staff and the ability to redact after one hour
  • Microsoft Azure Government Cloud Security
  • Unbroken, defensible audit trail

Adaptable FOIA redaction software technology helps government agencies improve and advance their existing processes. Having the ability to free up valuable resources while remaining compliant with all types of FOIA requests can be a game-changer for jurisdictions across the country that are dealing with the challenge of rising request volume. BWC footage will only become more prevalent in the future; ensure your agency is armed with the most current and effective redaction and request processing tools.

Join the Conversation. What are your peers prioritizing as they look to 2022?

Take the 2022 Peers In Public Records Survey.

The Peers in Public Records Newsletter (formerly FOIA News) is a bi-monthly e-newsletter brought to you by GovQA. It is a collection of the latest trends in public record requests and government transparency initiatives, shared stories, live roundtables, informative case studies, and actionable knowledge that will help you calm the chaos and keep your organization compliant. Send your comments to peers@govqa.com.

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