Body camera footage captured by Walworth County sheriff’s officials will be kept for seven days, five years or seven years under new ordinances the Walworth County Board passed Tuesday.
Approving the ordinances was one of the county’s final tasks before the sheriff’s office can fully use the body cameras. Sheriff’s officials bought the camera recording equipment and trained employees on its use several months ago.
Under the ordinances, most camera footage will be stored for five years. That time frame applies to routine calls for service—including intoxicated driving arrests, traffic accidents and business checks—and all misdemeanor offenses.
Footage of felony offenses will be stored for seven years, while video tests and nonevidence footage will be stored for seven days.
The county board approved the ordinances unanimously Tuesday after the executive committee recommended them in September.
Sheriff Kurt Picknell said the sheriff’s office has been implementing the body cameras over several months. Officials started using the cameras a few weeks ago, he said, and the ordinances were vital to setting up a video retention policy to keep in step with public records laws.
Body cameras are used by patrol personnel, including deputies, sergeants and captains, he said.
Over the past several years, Picknell said the department has consulted with other municipalities and police departments to hammer out a video retention policy. The state doesn’t have laws on camera footage retention, he said, so each municipality and agency must make its own rules.
“The camera itself is only one piece of the equation,” Picknell said. “The retention of the records, the redacting of information, the amount of work that’s going to take place is also a part of the discussion that I’ve had with other agencies … to make sure we’re comprehensively ready for this program to be sustainable.”
In the county’s 2018 budget, the board set aside $97,362 for the body camera system. It’s unclear how much the sheriff’s office spent for the system and implementation, County Administrator Dave Bretl said Tuesday.
Board Chairwoman Nancy Russell said the ordinances set a fair time frame for retention. And because the department will use a cloud-based storage system—which she said wasn’t available years ago—video storage will be easier.
“Our biggest concern when this was initially talked about was the public records portion of it,” Russell said. “How long would we have to maintain these and how much storage capacity would it require? But I think that’s been resolved.”