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WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR WHEN RESEARCHING POLICE BODY CAMERAS?

Body cameras are becoming an increasingly important tool for police officers. They help to capture an unbiased perspective of an incident and provide crucial evidence for investigations. When researching the best body camera for your agency, you want to be sure that the solution you choose meets the technological, practical and policy requirements of your agency.

Body Cameras for Police FAQ

What is Pre-Event and why is it important?

Pre-event (also called pre-event buffering or pre-buffering) is a standard industry feature with police body cameras. Unlike commercial cameras, which begin capturing content when you press record, police body cameras need to be able to include contextual information into recorded incidents. The reason for this is that something relevant usually happens right before an officer presses record on his body camera, and that context should be included in evidence. This is facilitated by pre-event. The length of time that is prepended onto an incident to be included with each incident is typically dictated by agency policy and administratively controlled.

Are police body cameras always recording, or do you have to press record?

Body cameras that support pre-event (and proprietary features such as Record-After-the-Fact) are technically always recording, though the footage is not uploaded into evidence unless a recording is initiated. Expectations of privacy by officers and citizens must therefore be carefully assessed whenever a body camera program is initiated.

What happens if an officer doesn’t have time to press record on their body camera?

Missed recordings are a significant issue for agencies with body camera programs. Most agencies have a policy which mandates camera activation when interacting with members of the community, but, in some circumstances, officers simply do not have the time to press record. Because of this, you should consider features like Record-After-the-Fact, that allow authorized agency officials to retrieve video footage from a camera’s memory, even when the record button was never pressed.

Can body cameras sync with in-car cameras?

Not all cameras can. You need to specifically find a vendor that has both body cameras and in-car cameras that are built to sync with one another. Among the few vendors that do offer this capability, the level of integration will vary.

What mounting options should I be looking for police body cameras?

If a body camera falls off an officer, it’s not doing its job, and potentially vital evidence is not being captured. It is therefore imperative that you select a camera mounting system that works well with your agency’s uniform and work practices. Options vary from the conventional center-chest magnetic mount, to brackets that interface with MOLLE and Peter Jones / Klick-Fast load-carrying systems.

What is the field of view in body cameras and why is it important?

A body camera’s “field of view” determines how much of the scene in front of the camera will be recorded. Too narrow a field of view will result in missed evidence. Too wide a field of view will cause “fish-eye” distortion. Some body cameras employ distortion correction technology to help capture a broad field of view without the strong distortion that would otherwise come with the wide angle lens.

Is metadata important for police video footage?

As your body cameras build up large volumes of video evidence, it will become increasingly important that you manage the material efficiently. To accomplish this, you will need to add tagging and metadata. Some video systems can also be configured to act based on video metadata: for example prioritizing the upload of violent crime video before that of traffic citations.

What battery life should I expect from a police body camera?

The battery life for a body camera will vary from one manufacturer to another. The minimum is often 6-8 hours, with 12 hours typically defining the high end. Bear in mind, shifts can run long, and officers may ask to use their cameras for side jobs, which will place additional burden on your camera's battery requirements. Since many agencies pool their body cameras, if your camera cannot easily replace the battery, you will need to plan time to recharge the cameras between shifts. If battery life is important to your agency, you should consider a camera that has a replaceable battery.

Should all police officers wear a body camera?

It is strongly recommended that all sworn officers are equipped to record every interaction with citizens. This should include community liaison officers, technicians, enforcement officers and school resource officers as well as patrol officers. You should consider equipping other personnel with body cameras if they regularly interact with the community as well.

How is police body camera video evidence managed?

Every body camera system needs a “back end” solution for storage, management, processing and secure sharing of video evidence. For very small agencies, this can be as simple as a program running on a laptop. For larger agencies, it will be a high-capacity on-premise server or a cloud-based application. When specifying your solution, you should use your video evidence retention policy to calculate exactly how much storage you will need. Some manufacturers will require you to pay large fees for storage, and even larger fees if you exceed your contractual allowance. Be sure to research the storage costs associated with each vendor.

Should I specify live-streaming capability when researching police body cameras?

Live streaming of video from a body camera has so far had low adoption in law enforcement. Every camera is required to have a reliable broadband connection, which can be expensive and administration-intensive. Also, the impact on battery life will be significant, possibly leading to premature shutdown of cameras during extended incidents. In-car video camera systems do not carry the risk of battery depletion, so it is recommended that all vehicle systems are configured for live-streaming.

Police Recording on Body Camera

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