It’s been a long time since George Holliday picked up his video camera and pressed the “record” button, capturing on tape the arrest of Rodney King. Back then, a relatively finite number of people owned personal video cameras, but 30 years after that event we’re surrounded by them.
Just about everybody has a cell phone with some form of video recording capability, and in some cities you can’t stroll down a sidewalk without being captured on one stationary surveillance camera after another, after another.
As my good friend Dr. Bill Lewinsky once told me (and I’m paraphrasing here), a videotape is the two dimensional record of a three-dimensional event, and therefore cannot show completely what happened during a given incident.
One Tough Little Unit
One of the things that’s been missing for many years is the videotaped perspective of the police officer. That problem is being resolved as police body-worn video cameras come to market.
I recently tested one such unit — the PVR-LE2 body-worn video camera from VIEVU — and I was really impressed with the results. You can view footage of me testing the gear at the bottom of the article.
It is incredibly easy to use and totally unobtrusive on the body. The only time wires are attached to it is when you used the proprietary, two-USB connector to download the videos from the unit to a computer. The LE2 contains one moving part. To activate the camera you simply swipe the lens cover down, and to shut it of, swipe it back up again — no fine motor skill necessary!
It has the capability to record up to four hours of video at a video resolution of 640x480 VGA. The non-removable Lithium-Ion battery charges via USB cable (connected either to a computer, or in conjunction with an adapter, directly to a wall outlet).
During a daylong carbine course presented by Spartan Concepts and Consulting and taught by my good friends Ken Hardesty and Kyle Gentry, I did my very best to abuse the device.
I intentionally dropped it to the concrete pad beneath my reload station. I tossed it into the grassy berm beside the range, simulating it coming off during a foot pursuit. I dropped to prone on the gravel range and moved around a little as I changed shooting positions.
Admittedly it is now awfully dirty, and a tiny bit scratched up (going prone on a gravel range will do that), but otherwise the device is totally intact.
This is one tough little unit!
The Officer’s Perspective
I was not wearing a Tac Vest or a uniform shirt so the only feasible place to securely clip the little pager-sized camera was my belt. Unfortunately, because of the shooting stance I take (mostly squared up, bent at the waist, pushing into the attack somewhat), most of those videos did not capture my targets. Except for one video, all that is visible is the shadow of my AR with spent casings spitting out of it.
However, at times I handed it to my range partner next to me, basically putting him in the position of cover officer. Those videos turned out great.
At the very end of this column are three video examples for your viewing pleasure, which will give you a decent idea of the potential this thing has for you. Before we get there though, I want to talk just a little bit about the software and accessories used in conjunction with this product.
Versatile Uses, Simple Software
First off, calling this device a body-worn camera is not totally accurate. You can actually mount this thing just about anywhere, most notably, in your squad car. There is an available “Car Kit” which includes a suction-cup mounted adjustable arm that can be used to attach the unit to a dashboard (assuming it’s smooth enough for the suction-cup mount to stick).
My guess is that it would work far better if you attached the suction cup to the front windshield someplace that doesn’t obstruct your visibility. While I didn't attempt this, one of the things I did try out is the software. To put it succinctly, it’s Doug-proof.
When you want to download your videos, you just connect the unit using the abovementioned proprietary dual-USB cable. You then open up the software on your desktop, and a screen appears asking for your username and password. These three things in conjunction ensure that if you drop the unit in a foot pursuit and someone picks it up, they won’t be able to see your videos.
• They won’t have installed the software • They won’t possess the appropriate cable • They won’t know the username and password
Clever, yet incredibly simple.
Another cool thing about the software is that once it downloads the videos, the memory on the device is cleared so you’re instantly ready to go back out again.
I pretty much just used the “Client” (read: cop) version of the software. There’s a version specifically for administrators, which apparently provides them the “ability to review and make copies of video files as needed,” says a company document. “Each time an administrative task is preformed, such as copying or deleting a video, the database log records the date, time, user ID and purpose for accountability.”
There’s plenty more to it than that, but I realize that I’ll put everyone to sleep if I continue talking about software.
Finally, Some Conclusions
I personally believe that every department should issue every officer a body-worn camera. Some would disagree with that opinion, and that’s fine.
My belief is that these cameras can significantly reduce the number of frivolous (and fictional!) lawsuits brought against officers and agencies across America.
Some might say, “Times are tough, and there’s just no budget for adding these cameras.”
Yes, at about a thousand dollars per unit, you’re talking about a fairly serious chunk of change to outfit an entire PD, and for an individual officer to buy one for themselves, it’s going to cause a bit of a sting in the wallet at first. However, if you prevent just one lawsuit “settlement” you’ve almost certainly gotten — if not far exceeded — a fair return on investment.
Doug Wyllie on the Square Range
After first being introduced to VIEVU, I began to exchange emails with Steve Lovell, Managing Director of the company. A small group of us began kicking around the ways in which I might test out the VIEVU PVR-LE2, and at one point he Lovell, “I think clipping a camera on Doug would be a great way to evaluate his expert shooting skills.”
Well, my shooting skills aren’t much to write home about, but I do train vigorously to continually improve. Okay, let’s watch some videos and make fun of your friendly neighborhood editor on the square range!
Multiple Target Engagement, First Person View
Wearing the VIEVU camera on my belt, all that's actually visible is the shadow of my AR. Perhaps I can get back out to a training and place it on my chest as it would be worn of an officer’s uniform. I did get my hits though!
Multiple Target Engagement, Transition to Pistol
During this course of fire, I had my range partner hold the VIEVU body-worn camera against his shoulder, where an officer might wear it, and he got this little clip. I'd set up my magazine to go dry on the last target, forcing a transition to the handgun. Note the assailant is wearing body armor. So, yes, I do place the first two handgun rounds as headshots, following the body down with the next three shots.
Multiple Target Engagement: Moving, Shooting, Transitioning
In this drill I’d set up my rifle to go dry after ten rounds, not knowing how many times Kyle would call the line to move and shoot. We were instructed to always shoot a non-standard response (minimum of two shots) that would solve the problem in front of us. I ensured that all three of my pistol mags held ten rounds, and worked the drill. Turns out, I expended at least 30 rounds. I emptied the AR, and then emptied two pistol mags.
About the author
Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 750 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.
Read more articles by PoliceOne Editor in Chief Doug Wyllie by clicking here.