There was a time, not that long ago, when truck drivers drove for 24hrs straight on a mix of coffee and meth leading to routine mayhem on our roads. Then they introduced ‘the spy in the cab’ and the problem went away almost overnight. Similarly the introduction of police monitoring equipment (essentially a GoPro for each cop) has caused enormous changes.
Suddenly the seemingly intractable problem of inappropriate use of force and the complaints filed against the police for so doing dropped immediately. Use of force by 60% and complaints by 88% respectively. The national media coverage following the killing of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson has given this issue due prominence. The message is clear…if a bad actor knows his bad acts will be recorded and make him answerable for them he will think twice before committing those acts. Even in Missouri a few body-mounted camera systems are being considered, which will likely set the pattern for how wearable technology is used in the police force from now on. Here are some examples of the technology under test or in use:
Digital Ally FirstVU HD Officer-Worn Video System
Digital Ally’s system and others like it are unique because they accommodate the need of police officers exiting their vehicles. Such action often leaves dash-mounted cameras unable to record activity beside or behind the patrol car.
Since its market launch, the efficacy of the FirstVU HD has been complemented and expanded by ‘live streaming’ capabilities, cloud-based storage and access, and the recent introduction of patented VuLink connectivity system, which allows body cameras and multiple in-car video systems to be automatically or manually activated simultaneously.
TASER Axon Flex
Another leading maker of wearable video cameras is Taser. The Axon Flex that sells for $600 lets officers mount the tiny camera on their eyewear, hat, helmet, body or even on the dash of their cruiser.
A collaboration between Taser and Samsung allows the video and audio feed from the camera to be sent to a Samsung media device with a four-inch screen called the Galaxy Player.
Law enforcement agencies have used the Axon Flex-Galaxy Player combination not only for active police work, but also to monitor trainees and help provide better feedback as they develop their policing skills.
The company that went public with an IPO back in June makes the Hero line of personal HD cameras, frequently used in extreme sports. Although the GoPro Hero is sold to and used by law enforcement, it is larger than some of its competitors and considered bulky by some.
What some consider a disadvantage, however, could also be an advantage. A chest-mounted GoPro Hero is obvious to anyone a police officer encounters.
Many would argue that Google Glass is a perfect fit for police use. It sees what the officer sees, is small and lightweight, unobtrusive and offers many other benefits including the ability to communicate with various police agencies.
Law enforcement personnel in Dubai, New York, Byron, Georgia and Rialto have made use of Google Glass. Because the device has the potential to be used with a variety of apps that could, for example, scan license plates, many in law enforcement see Glass as one of most attractive options yet.