Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg Police offer new timeline for body camera deployment.

Cpl. Josh Hammer demonstrates body camera equipment at a Sept. 2017 press conference. Police officials say that body cameras won’t hit the streets in Harrisburg until 2019.

The Harrisburg Police Bureau is eyeing a late spring launch for its department-wide body camera program, according to city hall documents released this week.

The police bureau issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to potential vendors on Wednesday, inviting them to submit cost estimates and specifications for 100 body-worn police cameras and a video storage system.

Bidders must provide detailed descriptions of their camera equipment and IT services, as well as a budget narrative that includes a unit price for cameras and accessories, a price for cloud-based video storage, and a fixed yearly rate for maintenance and support.

The RFP does not state a budget for the new program. The bureau was given $150,000 in Harrisburg’s 2019 budget to purchase body camera equipment, a figure that included $80,000 in unspent funds from 2018.

City officials announced in September 2017 that they would equip the city’s uniformed patrol officers with body cameras the following year.

The program was delayed, however, as police officials tried to determine which specifications they needed in recording and video storage equipment.

Eight officers spent two months in 2017 and 2018 testing prototype equipment in a short-term pilot phase. Police Capt. Gabriel Olivera said in September that no single model suited all the department’s needs.

As a result, Olivera said, it took longer than anticipated to draft an RFP describing equipment specifications.

The resulting RFP outlines dozens of technical characteristics the police will use to evaluate potential equipment—from camera size, weight and portability to options for storage and video playback.

According to the bidding documents, city officials are seeking a storage system that will index footage by officer name, date and time of recording, and type of crime. The cameras must also have built-in audio and video redaction capabilities.

The RFP has already been shared on the city website and be posted in the legal notice section of local newspapers next week, mayor Eric Papenfuse said. Bids are due on Feb. 8.

Proposals will be evaluated by a panel of city representatives, who will select a “short list” of qualified vendors to be invited to city hall for an in-person interview and equipment demonstration.

The panel will evaluate equipment based on ease of use, cost and the vendor’s ability to provide training and technical support.

Vendors that meet the evaluation criteria will be invited to participate in a 30-day testing period starting on Feb. 18.

The city intends to approve a final vendor on March 22 and award a full contract by May 10.

Most public contracts are guaranteed to the lowest responsible bidder, or the reliable vendor who can perform the service on the lowest budget. That won’t be the case for this contract, Papenfuse said.

Legal language in the RFP will allow the city to award contract to the firm of their choice, regardless of cost.

Before the city can deploy the equipment, however, it must hammer out a deal with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) that codifies its standards for using cameras and releasing footage.

Papenfuse said that Harrisburg has not formally entered negotiations with FOP but has engaged the union in informal conversations. Those talks will continue as the city develops a new five-year financial plan with its Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, a five-member oversight board that will be populated this year.

Any agreement with FOP must comply with Act 22, a statute passed by the state legislature in 2017 dictating the times when officers must activate and deactivate their cameras.

Act 22 allows police to record conversations in private residences – something civilians can’t do under the state wiretap law. However, footage recorded under Act 22 is not subject to Right to Know laws.

Police departments have final say over what camera footage will be made public.

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