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August 14, 2012
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Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief 10-43: Be Advised...
with Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief

PoliceOne Roundtable: Expert insights on body-worn video cameras

Some of the experts in the body-worn video camera industry share their thoughts on issues the devices can solve

What are the biggest issues facing police agencies that body-worn cameras can solve?

Adam Rushlow: 
Officers are serving daily in a new “iReport” culture where virtually every citizen is equipped with video capable smart phones and are posting guerilla footage to the Internet almost as soon as an event happens. Often these perspectives are edited or only capture a reaction and almost always leave out context.

Michael Millhollen:
Video saves time, money and sometimes officers’ jobs. Faced with the knowledge that an incident is on video, most complaints and lawsuits against the agency are dropped and many prosecution cases are uncontested or expedited. That equates to less time investigating allegations and in court as well as reduced expenses from lawsuits and insurance.

Meet the Experts

Adam Rushlow manages trade shows, PR and marketing for WatchGuard Video and seeks to propel their message to the forefront of the law enforcement technology industry.

Steve Lovell is the Managing Director of VIEVU, which provides technology solutions for police. He is a former Oakland officer of 20 years who retired with the rank of Sergeant.

Steve Tuttle  is a founding team member of TASER International and its second longest-serving employee. He began TASER's original TASER® law enforcement training.

Michael Millhollen is the Marketing Specialist at Digital Ally, Inc., whose products include the FirstVu officer-worn or mountable video systems.

Steve Tuttle:
The biggest issues that body-worn cameras can solve are reducing litigation and complaints while increasing officer efficiency.  Ultimately it reduces the he said/she said which saves communities money in meritless complaints. 

Steve Lovell: 
First and foremost, police agencies are frequently understaffed and underfunded. The deployment of BWV is a great cost-effective solution and can reduce time in court and liability associated with modern-day policing. Recently, we completed a cost benefit analyses for a BWV project for a metropolitan US city that was faced with a high number of citizen complaints and litigation. The report concluded that after four months, the agency would have recovered the initial capital expenditure, and then experienced savings from complaint management, reduced time in court and costly litigation. VIEVU saves agencies time and money; provides officers with job security and protection from frivolous charges and allegations; and saves cities, counties and taxpayers from expensive and time-consuming lawsuits. 

What are the key things departments need to consider when buying body-worn cameras?

Adam Rushlow: 
Simplicity and security. Officers are already loaded down with so much gear and technology, they often tell us the last thing they want is more bulky equipment. Look for solutions that are small while maintaining high quality video and audio in a single device without extra wiring and offer levels of security their job demands. And of course, you always want it to be rugged.

Michael Millhollen:
Departments should weigh short and long-term cost; back-end flexibility with their current infrastructure; security features for chain of custody evidence viability in court; how and where they want to mount the cameras, taking into consideration a cameras’ field of view and the quality of the attachment options; as well as what and when they want to record, including battery life and recharging/replacement options, pre-event recording, and the preferred method of storage.

Steve Tuttle:
Agencies need to know where the officer will wear the unit as this is key in providing the best visual evidence and for comfort. Does it have multiple mounting options for different officers' preference? Will the low-light performance meet our agency’s needs? Can the system add additional information to make the video events more relevant?

Steve Lovell: 
Officer safety is the primary concern. The device has to be easy to use, non-cumbersome or distracting, lightweight and effective. Second, the device must present the officer’s point of view with high-quality audio. The next consideration should be a file management solution that's expandable, features user permissions, has an audit ability and meets the minimum standards of the IACP. Finally, agencies need to realize that the public is watching, judging and videotaping them. Their video solutions are proactive in protecting the agency and officers.

What are some of the mistakes departments make during the testing and evaluation process?

Adam Rushlow:
A common mistake often made by departments during the evaluation process is placing too much emphasis on features that are not commonly used during normal operations and in their SOP. Much focus should be placed on finding a product that works within their environment and not one that causes the agency to adapt to the limitations of the product.

Michael Millhollen:
If a department does not use the same pool of officers for each product tested, it can be difficult to get an accurate comparison. They won’t have a true frame of reference to know how differently specific features perform on different systems or notice if a feature they found particularly useful is present or not. Also, if they only assign the evaluation to a single officer, the department places themselves at the mercy of the personal preferences of that individual. Departments should ensure that the evaluating officers are fully trained on the system they are testing, as well, and should check in on the testing process instead of assuming it is being performed.

Steve Tuttle:
Agencies often overlook the need to securely store, manage and retrieve their digital evidence after it has been captured. To provide the most value, agencies should ensure they have a robust plan and service to facilitate data storage, management and retrieval. The focus on cameras often makes the back-end solution an afterthought when it is just as crucial, if not more, than the cameras.

Steve Lovell:
Most departments consider traffic and patrol units but don’t rotate to school resource officers, crime scene technicians or criminal investigators. All departments have different operational needs and ideas about body-worn cameras but they should explore expanded benefits. Agencies also consider low-cost video as an alternative when those video solutions do not provide high-quality video or audio and are not reliable.

What are some of the best practices being put in place at agencies now using body-worn cameras?

Adam Rushlow:
One of the most important things any agency can do is to consider a comprehensive approach to video. Don’t allow the body-worn decision to be separated from other video needs. Look at the body-worn camera as a compliment to other video technologies, and not as an alternative.

Michael Millhollen:
Agencies are taking advantage of the mobility of body-worn cameras by using them on all calls for service, giving their officers both protection and clarity by generating policies on the use of the cameras and then enforcing those policies, and keeping the equipment in top condition and ready to use by assigning systems to individual officers as opposed to sharing them in a pool.

Steve Tuttle:
Best practices include recording any time an officer makes contact with the public, adding information to the video files to make it easier to search, and setting up retention policies that delete routine events after a certain amount of time.  

Steve Lovell:
I think we have seen a very strong improvement with agencies outlining better BWV policies, procedures and public records requests. It is always a good practice to train the officers on the cameras usage and have a clear policy for the public requesting footage. These guidelines can build public trust and confidence with the department that serves them. 

What does the future hold for the use of body-worn cameras in law enforcement? 

Adam Rushlow:
As with any police technology, advances in engineering will produce exciting new possibilities in the coming years. Body-worn cameras will naturally become more common place and give agencies the opportunity to gather additional evidence that will complement existing efforts and make policing more effective in the digital age.

Michael Millhollen:
Since there are several key features of in-car video systems that cannot be duplicated by body-worn cameras, more and more departments that already use these video systems will take advantage of the cost, unique perspective and mobile versatility of body-worn cameras by adopting them in a supplemental capacity. Departments that have not traditionally had sufficient funds for in-car video systems will be able to utilize body-worn cameras. Furthermore, officers who could not use in-car video systems because they patrolled on foot, bicycle, horse, ATV or were inside a jail facility, booking/processing area or other locations away from the vehicle will now be able to capture video and audio of incidents.

Steve Tuttle:
Body-worn cameras will be present on every officer in the next three to five years. Future features could include even more streaming capability and advanced interoperability with smart phones.

Steve Lovell:
The future will be smaller devices connected to stream and off load data that are intelligent for biometric or predictive alerts. At VIEVU we are made by cops, for cops and it is from our experience in the uniform that we design our products.  

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. In addition to his editorial and managerial responsibilities, 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), and an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association. He is also a member of the Public Safety Writers Association, and is a three-time (2011, 2012, and 2014) Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" Finalist in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. 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.

Contact Doug Wyllie



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