Police Department Surveillance RFP

Author: John Honovich, Published on Nov 07, 2010

In this update, we examine a US town's video surveillance system RFP for their police department headquarters. Rather than issuing a performance or product specification, this town has taken a much less common approach of letting each bidder design their own solution. The town will then interview and potentially negotiate with selected responders. Review the town's video surveillance RFP.

Let's first examine the town's current system and needs:

  • Existing system first started in the mid 90s and now has 3 DVRs and more than 40 cameras.
  • Various system components are failing.
  • The town is looking for a major upgrade to an IP based system that eliminates multiple passwords. replaces the analog matrix system and integrates audio at all sites.

The RFP is extremely vague and only 5 pages long. As the town notes, "the intent of this RFP [is] to have a qualified, experienced contractor survey the facility, perform a needs assessment, design and engineer a solution to upgrade the existing CCTV system within the parameters contained."

Some observations:

  • Design: We are skeptical of how thorough responders will be in designing a solution from scratch for an open bid that leads only to a second round of competition. It's an expensive proposition for the responders. The town is likely to get each responder to pitch their lead VMS.
  • Passwords: The town specifically called out the multiple password problem for each DVR as a significant problem. We are not surprised about this as it is both a usability headache and a security concern. On the other hand, the town must expect to pay a premium to eliminate this problem - likely on the order of $100 more per camera or about $4,000 as systems with enterprise management almost invariably cost significantly more than those that do not.
  • Old System: It is not uncommon for municipalities to keep surveillance systems for a long period of time (7+ years). Note that while the town has likely been repairing and replacing components for years, only now has it moved to do a major upgrade.
  • Jump to IP: Given how infrequent the town does upgrades, the move to IP makes sense as a platform for the next decade.
  • Audio: In analog systems, audio had implementation barriers, requiring separate cabling, microphones/speakers and often restrictions on audio inputs/use in DVRs. Certainly, IP cameras will make this easier as microphones are routinely built-in and no additional cabling or recorder inputs are required. Additionally, our Camera Finder shows that 298 of 508 cameras have listening capabilities built-in.
  • Digital matrix: While the town asks for a digital matrix, we assume that they will simply use their VMS client capabilities to display live video. Given that this is a police station, we would suspect that live monitoring of PTZs is a secondary concern (the primary reason to keep or enhance analog matrices).
  • Encoders or Hybrid DVR: While the specification is silent on this point, this will be an important decision. It appears that the town will try to keep at least some of its existing analog cameras. For an organization that moves as slowly as they appear to, we would think hybrid DVRs would make the most sense as they are the least expensive and simplest path for IP migration.
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