It started in 2005. Police forces in Europe began testing a new kind of surveillance hoping to reduce paperwork and help prosecute criminals simultaneously. The idea? Strapping video cameras to their helmets; hence, the first version of the Body-Worn Camera (BWC). While cameras had long been used in policing across the globe, this technology marked the first time officers were actually wearing the cameras as part of their kit.
It set off a revolution in policing and was credited with deterring bad behavior and collecting useful evidence for judges and jurors. Almost immediately, police forces across Western Europe, including France, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and the UK started buying police body camera technology, making sure each officer had one to wear on shift.
At the time, police body camera technology was a far cry from the technology that is available today. Often attached to an officer’s hat or helmet, the early cameras were the size of a bar of soap, required officers to turn them on at their discretion, stored only four hours of footage on a four-hour battery, had 16GB of internal storage, and used a lens that offered a narrow 68-degree field of view. Yet, they were capturing footage that was being used to decide situations of one person’s word against another.
U.S. Adoption of Body Cameras
A few years after they were implemented in Europe, the U.S. followed suit.
One of the first departments to implement Body-Worn Cameras in the U.S. was the Rialto Police Department in Rialto, CA. From 2012 to 2013, they conducted an experiment to determine the impact of the cameras not only on the officers but also the public. What they found was groundbreaking. When officers were wearing cameras, the use-of-force incidents went down by more than 58% while citizen complaints dropped nearly 90%. The study attributes these staggering statistics to behavioral research, which has repeatedly shown that people change their behaviors when they are being watched.
However, it wasn’t until the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, that the national conversation around this technology began to change.
Body-Worn Cameras were praised by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as “a law enforcement strategy aimed at improving public safety, reducing crime and improving public trust between police and the citizens they serve.”
Even organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) were in support of BWCs, as long as they “were accompanied by a proper policy.”
In 2015, President Obama had Attorney General Loretta Lynch announce $23 million in grants “to expand the use of Body-Worn Cameras and explore their impact.” That money went to departments across 32 states to “build upon efforts to mend the fabric of trust, respect and common purpose that all communities need to thrive,” said Lynch.
Yet some officers were still hesitant.
In 2017, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) was involved in a government-funded study to determine the BWC’s effectiveness, and its contribution to community safety and citizen and police interactions.
Sheriff Joe Lombardo of the LVMPD said in an article released by the DOJ, “When we first proposed the idea of body-worn cameras, our officers were reticent…what they quickly [discovered] was that [the camera] became their best eyewitness.”
Body Cameras Triggered to Record Automatically
A recent update in BWC technology has made this “eyewitness” even more beneficial. The debate on when to power on and off Body-Worn Cameras remains a hot topic for both officers and the public. However, companies like Getac Video Solutions have enabled a Bluetooth body camera function on the BWC that eliminates the debate. The updated function allows for the cameras to automatically start recording once a sensor has been triggered. The sensors can be activated by events ranging from weapon release to lightbar activation, sirens, speed, crashes, and more. Additionally, the technology also has the ability to record the 10, 20, or even 30 seconds before the trigger event, so a more comprehensive understanding of the event can be documented.
This automatic triggering function aligns well with model Body-Worn Camera policies proposed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), U.S. DOJ Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), and the ACLU, who all encourage officers to activate their Body-Worn Cameras when responding to every call or when in touch with citizens in any capacity. It also prevents officers from having to worry about powering on the camera, which could potentially distract them and lead to unsafe situations for the officers and the civilians.
Data Storage for Body Cameras
Once the video and audio have been collected, the next step is to figure out what to do with it. That is proving to be a daunting task, according to a report funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Emergency Communications. They surveyed the members of the Major Cities Chiefs and Major County Sheriffs and found that a large majority, upwards of 70%, of “respondents recognized a need to expand and improve their IT infrastructure to fully support BWCs.” Members cited “lack of data storage capacity, inadequate network or bandwidth capability, and inadequate wireless capacity,” as their main areas of technological concern.
Furthermore, state and local laws, along with internal policies make it challenging to find a solution. Determining how long to keep footage, when to turn on your camera, which scenarios automatically trigger recording, and many other topics, are questions with answers that differ from city to city. The government has created a database for the current state BWC laws, which can be found here.
Our Body Camera Solutions
Fortunately, today we offer solutions to many of these challenges.
Instead of bulky, low-resolution cameras with a short battery life, today’s cameras are at the cutting edge, offering the latest technology and integrating seamlessly into your system.
Getac Video Solutions (GVS) sells one of the smallest and lightest Body-Worn Cameras in the industry. But don’t let its compact size fool you. Along with a full-shift life battery of 12 hours, our BWC boasts 64 GB of storage, the ability to record video in 1080p, 720p, or 480p, and has a 120-degree field of view. Additionally, full-HD video can be recorded even in low-light conditions. Created with real-life situations in mind, our BWC can withstand extreme temperatures, rain, and dust, and is vibration and drop resistant. It can also be mounted in a variety of locations including the chest, pocket, MOLLE and/or epaulette.
Our GVS Body-Worn Cameras can also be used for audio-only recordings, making it handy to conduct evidence collection and interviews—eliminating the need for an additional wireless microphone. Less gear for the officers means lighter kits, less equipment training and maintenance, as well as being more cost-effective for departments.
While the physical camera and how to integrates with an officer’s day-to-day routine is important, it’s only one component to a more complex intelligence gathering system that Getac Video offers. Getac Real Time Command integrates information and imagery from a variety of sources, including streaming body cameras, and provides real-time updates to Chiefs, Commanders and others back at HQ monitoring the deployment of units on the ground.
Body-Worn Cameras have come a long way over the last few years, but “the technology’s potential impacts are far-reaching” and still aren’t widely understood. Let Getac Video Solutions help. We have a passion for innovative technology that makes the world a safer place. It is our mission to continually evolve the promise of technology, to innovate solutions that are focused on keeping communities and those who serve communities, safe.