From the draw to the lens: Safariland's new BWC system captures critical incidents automatically

The product combines VIEVU's LE4 body camera with Safariland's 7TS series of holsters in a system designed to automatically capture video


Given the calls for increased transparency in police departments, there’s no question that body cameras are quickly becoming as standard a component of an officer’s duty gear as radios or handcuffs. But as with any new technology, growing pains are inevitable. As evidenced in a number of high-profile officer-involved shootings over the past few years, the issue of cameras not being activated until after a critical incident has occurred – or not being activated at all – has sparked protests from the public and accusations (however untrue they may be) of intentional deception.

It’s an understandable – perhaps inevitable – oversight: in a critical incident that often calls for split-second life-or-death decisions, the last thing an officer should be worried about is activating a camera. VIEVU and Safariland have taken this issue head-on with the launch of a new auto-activation body-worn camera system.

From the draw to the lens
The Camera Auto-Activation System is the first tangible collaboration between VIEVU and Safariland since their highly-publicized merger last year. The product combines the VIEVU LE4 body-worn camera with Safariland’s 7TS series of holsters in a system designed to automatically capture video from the moment a law enforcement officer draws their service weapon.

(Photo/PoliceOne)
(Photo/PoliceOne)

“It allows police officers on the ground to not worry about manually operating their camera when they need the recording the most,” Tarey Gettys, Vice President and General Manager of VIEVU, said. “It allows the police officer to focus on his safety and the safety of the public around the area.”

A sensor within the holster can detect the motion or the draw of a firearm, which in turn sends a signal to the camera and initiates recording. Since the cameras come with pre-record functionality, the system also captures the 30 seconds prior to the gun being drawn. The camera then continues recording until the officer intentionally turns it off.

The Level III or Level II Retention holster (depending on the model) acts as a protective layer for the technology, which adds a negligible amount of weight to the holster and does not interfere with the officer’s ability to freely draw their firearm, according to David Kingston, Director of Strategy and Integration at VIEVU and Safariland.

“That’s the beauty of our 7TS holsters. We’re able to protect all of the technology inside a degree of ruggedization and water proofing,” Kingston said.

Video when it's needed most
The system is connected via a wire routed through the officer’s uniform, which ensures successful activation, according to the company. The wire, which locks into place to prevent it from ripping out of the holster or camera, is designed to eliminate the risk of pairing or Bluetooth connection failures. In contrast with other auto-activation systems commonly connected to components of a squad car, the focus on weapon draw means the technology is capturing an incident that is most likely to benefit from video evidence.

“This is hyper-focused on the critical incidents where a firearm comes out of its holster, which tend to garner the most public attention and are clearly high-stress incidents for our law enforcement officers,” Kingston said. “Sometimes officers are on their own. Sometimes they’re away from patrol cars. What you really want to be sure of is wherever that officer is, if they have to draw their gun, their camera is going to turn on.”

Visual LED indicators inform a user of the system’s battery level and that it is operating. The battery that powers the system is located in a tube on the holster. If an officer already owns an LE4 camera, the holster – available in the 7360, 7365 and 7280 models – is available for purchase separately. The package also includes VIEVU’s evidence management software.

“We want to make sure that our devices are simple, easy to use, and have high functionality. In this case, I think it matches all three,” Gettys said. “It allows the officer to focus on the situation at hand and helps foster trust between police and the public.”

To learn more about the auto-activation system, click here or visit VIEVU/Safariland at IACP booth #1039.

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