Body-Worn Cameras and 21st Century Policing

Recently, President Obama announced a Task Force on 21st Century Policing, made up of law enforcement, community leaders, and other experts. The group was given 90 days to develop recommendations for fostering better relationships between the community and law enforcement, while also helping to reduce crime rates. One of the major initiatives that came from this task force was a recommendation to invest in body-worn camera systems for law enforcement agencies across the country.

In line with this recommendation, the Department of Justice has announced a $20 million body-worn camera pilot program to help agencies invest in camera hardware, training and technical assistance, as well as the development of evaluation tools to study best practices. In speaking about the pilot program, U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch called it “a vital part of the Justice Department’s comprehensive efforts to equip law enforcement agencies throughout the country with the tools, support, and training they need to tackle the 21st century challenges we face.”

Body-worn cameras have proven to be a valuable tool for both officers and the community. They not only strengthen community policing by providing accountability and transparency, but they also assist officers in documenting evidence, training and improving performance. However, not all solutions are the same and there are several key factors to consider when purchasing a body-worn solution.

With technology continuously evolving, there are many options on the market to address different agency needs. Important considerations that agencies should keep in mind when evaluating body-worn solutions include:

  • Quality and reliability. A high-quality body-worn camera can be an invaluable tool for your officers in the field, but it’s important to make the right hardware choices. Look for a system that your officers can count on to record and safely store all data captured at an incident, with a wide-angle lens, image stabilization, low-light capabilities and the ability to capture HD video. The hardware must also be reliable in any environment your officers find themselves in. It should be resistant to water, dust and dirt, as well as drops and should provide a battery life that lasts for officers’ full shifts. To verify performance claims, ask the manufacturer to provide testing data and failure rates.
  • Video evidence management. Camera hardware is just one half of the equation; a user-friendly video file management system is also critical for agencies investing in body-worn solutions. Since many agencies already rely on video from in-car or fixed surveillance systems, a complete evidence management solution should incorporate footage from body-worn cameras and a variety of other sources into a single platform. Having multiple standalone systems for each video evidence source makes internal processes more complicated, systems that are more difficult to manage, and more time consuming to access video evidence when it’s needed. Additionally, it is important that your management system meets security and data retention requirements to ensure your data is protected and its authenticity can be verified.
  • Flexibility. A flexible system that can adapt to your agency’s needs will save money and headaches down the road. Look at what features will benefit your officers the most and decide if features like synchronized triggering with in-car video systems, GPS, pre-event recording, or tablet and smartphone integration will enhance productivity and efficiency. Weight, size and flexible mounting options are also a consideration to keep in mind for officers who need to wear the device for a full shift. Body-worn solutions are designed to help keep your officers safe and provide valuable evidence; your solution should fit seamlessly into your officers’ workflows rather than adding extra steps to their job.