Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wonderful Idea

Fox News is reporting on a little piece of technology that is aiding a small police force in Mississippi:  clip-on video cameras.  Basically, a police officer activates the camera when he is interacting with the public, and it documents both his actions and the actions of those he is speaking with from very close to his perspective.

For police, this gives evidence of anything a suspect does or says during such things as traffic stops, serving warrants, or arrests.  It also protects them against false charges of being unprofessional and abusive.  This would be especially useful when used in conjunction with dashcams, and provides a record when the officer is away from his cruiser.

For those who interact with the police, it gives them a recording of those interactions.  If a policeman is out of line, his own recording will hang him.

The current technology has a removable memory chip that is used to store any video taken.  My guess is that an officer activates it when he or she is doing something with the public, and turns in the memory chip at the end of their shift.  I would improve on this in two ways.  First, the camera should be on for the duration of the officer being on duty, with no way for the officer to turn it off without physically destroying it.  The camera should have enough battery and memory capacity for 24 hours without recharging or emptying the storage chip.  Second, the camera should use mobile broadband to stream the audio and a lower resolution version of the video to a central location in addition to using local storage.  This will take care of situations where there are technical issues with the memory chip, as has been seen with dashcams where the tapes stop working just in time to record a traffic stop where the police are accused of abuse.

I could see this being used not only by beat cops, but by all government officials that are in positions where a record of all of their actions would come in handy, including military personnel walking patrols, prison guards, and TSA agents.  If a TSA blue-glove knows that he, along with all of his co-workers, is recording the pat down of a 95 year old grandmother, with no way for him to tamper with it, maybe a little more professionalism and common sense will start to sprout.

6 comments:

Joshkie said...

I likey!

Josh

Old NFO said...

Like it here too! Make ALL public officials carry one :-)

Joat said...

I like the idea, where do I buy one for when I'm dealing with the cops so I have my own record.

Captain Tightpants said...

I have no problem with the cameras recording encounters, but I will respectfully disagree with your "needs to be on 100% of the time on duty" assertion.

You're telling me that just because I'm at work I can't have a moment to take a dump in private? That my every phone call home to my wife must be recorded and subject to public or department scrutiny?

What if I need to meet a coworker to discuss an internal department matter - maybe a disciplinary issue, or a grievance with higher-ups? Guess what, that would all be recorded too.

What happens when I need to respond and meet the three-year-old abuse victim? Or the rape victim naked and terrified? All that would be not only recorded, but subject to discovery and viewing by the defense, newspapers, etc. Same thing if I need to meet with a confidential informant in fear of their lives.

Again - I have no issues with recording traffic stops, arrests, public encounters etc. - IMHO as a good cop they can only ever help me should something happen. But they don't need to be recording the entire shift.

DaddyBear said...

Interesting points Captain Tightpants. I hadn't considered that. A good cop could definitely be trusted to turn it on when it's necessary and shut it off in the situations you describe. How would be implement this and not make it easy for a bad cop to shut it off before doing something wrong but still allow the good cop to have his moments of privacy?

Captain Tightpants said...

DB - wish I knew the answer for that - the way dash cameras normally work is that they are in a constant "soft record" mode & then when the lights go on, and/or the officer hits the switch they go to a "hard record" for the 30 seconds prior until they are shut back off. How you implement this for a personal unit I do not know.

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