Enhancing Officer Safety with In-Car and Body-Worn Video Solutions

Digital video isn’t just about sophisticated evidence capture. It can also be vital to preserving an agency’s reputation and enhancing officer safety. Recently, I joined Major Steven A. Williams, Chief Technology Officer for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Law Officer Magazine Editor in Chief Dale Stockton, and GrantsOffice.com’s Michael Paddock in co-hosting a webinar to look at ways to get the most from this proven technology.

Wearable camera systems and in-car surveillance platforms offer unobtrusive methods to attain total situational awareness that when used together provide a comprehensive and seamless digital camera evidence capture solution, from the field to the courtroom. Recent significant improvements in body-worn video cameras now include advanced features like wireless connectivity, automated data transfer, enhanced audio/video quality and robust form factors that provide streamlined integration with in-car systems such as the Panasonic Arbitrator 360° and make them indispensible to law enforcement.

Body-worn video solutions have become a natural complement to in-car video platforms, which in recent years have become essential tools for police departments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, as of 2011, 60% of police departments and 66% of sheriff’s offices now use video solutions like the Arbitrator 360 in their vehicles. With multiple-camera systems allowing for 360° coverage, officers are better able to justify DUI stops, the proper use of restraints, and lawful use of force, or to establish probable cause. They also play a role in improving officer field training, liability reduction and accountability practices.

During the webinar, we looked at some key considerations for strategic deployments of mobile video systems. They include:

  • Prioritizing officer engagement and compliance.
  • Engaging with IT early and often, and gaining prosecutorial input and collaboration.
  • Considering storage – physical placement, duration, costs and controls.
  • How to evaluate products based on perspective/field of view provided by device, quality of video and audio, form factor and officer safety, ease of use, and general suitability for the mission.

One of the biggest challenges public safety agencies face today is finding ways to invest in new technology when budgets are tight. Fortunately, a number of federal grants, discussed during the webinar, are available to help state and local agencies secure funding. These include grants from the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

One option that should be avoided is resorting to consumer-grade video devices, which are not engineered to handle the high demands of law enforcement. While low-end, mass market products are readily available, they fail to offer the utility of purpose-built solutions such as pre-event recording, increased storage, motion correction, extended battery life and security features. According to Major Williams, some courts even prohibit recorded data from consumer devices as evidence because of the legal restrictions and data integrity issues involved.

I enjoyed joining Major Williams, Dale and Michael in taking a look at how agencies can make the most of this vital technology. To learn more and to view an archive of the webcast, click on the “Register Today” link here: http://www.lawofficer.com/webinar/beyond-capturing-evidence-how.