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Implementing a body-worn camera program



Most public safety officials are already well-versed in the benefits of body cameras. As well as providing an effective deterrent against criminal activity, a body camera is an independent witness, capturing every encounter with indisputable evidence. 


In working closely with mission-critical personnel across the globe, we’ve found that while many officials are ready to employ body cameras across their function, they lack certainty and clear guidance on how to implement a body-worn camera program that will meet their needs. Informed by years of experience, this guide aims to simplify the process of setting up a body camera program, allowing you to feel confident in managing your own agency program.

What is a body camera program?

A body camera program is where police officers and other personnel are equipped with cameras on their uniforms to capture their interactions with the community - it’s also known as a body-worn camera policy. The recorded footage can be instantly shared with remote teams, facilitating a faster, more informed incident response. Law enforcers are empowered with irrefutable video and audio evidence and can remain accountable, able to demonstrate their professionalism if required. The outcome gives the public improved trust in law enforcement. 


At Motorola Solutions we have significant experience delivering body worn camera policies for agencies across the world. South Charleston Police Department engaged us when their outdated camera program was failing to efficiently service their growing community. We worked with them to tailor a program to their needs. They’ve benefited from the streamlining of tasks: the cameras possess a one-button activation, running the police car lights automatically triggers a camera recording and upon reentering the police vehicle, footage is automatically offloaded. 


What should you consider before implementing a body camera program?

In the USA, the use of body cameras for police and law enforcement officers varies by state. Several states have made cameras mandatory - including Maine, New Mexico and New York. Our expert tool allows you to find out about the body camera legislation in your state and stay up-to-date about future mandates. 


Any agency looking to implement a program must have established body camera policies and procedures in place to ensure their correct usage, maintenance and storage. They should also consider the appropriate use of captured data: considering privacy, confidentiality and the release and retention of footage. 


To meet the needs of a body camera policy and implementation program in accordance with your federal, state, and local laws and regulations, you should take into account the following factors.


1. Cost 

Body camera programs require investment. It’s important to estimate the cost of procuring and maintaining cameras, as well as securely storing and managing the footage. You should also consider how the use of video security technology will fit into your existing infrastructure, and the impact of the cost of this. 


At Motorola Solutions we offer free grant assistance, providing the information you need to start a body camera grant program, including details on the free resources available to US agencies. It will help you in your bid to secure additional funding for your agency and support the implementation of a program.There are also different payment options available for agencies, including Video-As-A-Service, whereby monthly payments are made as an alternative to paying the full amount upfront. 


2. Training

Law enforcement officers should be given sufficient training on the correct way to operate a body camera, and how to store and manage the footage securely. Officers should also be trained on how to interact appropriately with community members when wearing a camera.  


3. Setting up your body cameras

Despite its use of advanced technology, getting your body worn camera program up and running needn’t be complex. At Motorola Solutions every body camera sold includes deployment and configuration services. We will ensure your officers are confident in the program and the process is executed as seamlessly as possible. 


4. Public perception

Before a body camera program is carried out, determine how your wider community perceives their use. As there are several misconceptions surrounding the use of body cameras in law enforcement, consider an educational forum or citizen's academy to relay the benefits of a program to your community.


What to include in your body camera program?

No two agencies are the same, and no two agencies will gain value from the same body camera program. However there are certain body camera features that agencies can consider when implementing their program.


Swappable batteries Instead of waiting for your body camera to charge, look for cameras that include self-cleaning batteries, and allow you to quickly swap in fresh batteries, while you leave the depleted ones to charge. This will leave you with a body camera with enough life to endure a long or unexpectedly extended shift.


Record-After-the-Fact (RATF) Even when the record button is not activated, agencies have the option to activate this body camera feature which recovers crucial evidence.


Take advantage of a technology ecosystem Despite a carefully considered system in place, a body camera program can fall short when the technologies - and all the other systems and devices in place in your agency - fail to ‘speak’ to each other. Without interoperability, team members both within and outside an agency are unable to connect, preventing a coordinated response, which becomes especially critical during a major incident. 


Body cameras which are compatible with further products, such as radios, holster sensors and in-car cameras - are an optimal investment. They increase your situational awareness and ensure a comprehensive account of critical evidence is captured.


Our website has extensive support on executing an effective body camera program, including a comparison tool to ensure you find the right cameras to fulfil your agency’s needs.

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