How a feature on your body-worn camera could save your life
BodyWorn Down technology automatically triggers an alert for backup and captures critical evidence when an officer goes prone in the field
Sponsored by Utility Inc.
By Laura Neitzel for PoliceOne BrandFocus
Every year, officers are assaulted or killed while conducting traffic stops. Any time an officer goes down, their life could be at stake. If an officer goes down in an isolated area, or at night, there may be little chance to try to save them if no one can find them.
Chief Bruce Hedley of the Lilburn (Georgia) Police Department knows this all too well. Early in his career, a fellow officer was shot during a traffic stop. That officer had not radioed his position to the dispatcher, so no one knew his location when they realized he was missing. By the time the officer was found several hours later, it was too late.
Although body-worn camera technology and GPS tracking did not exist at the time of this incident in the early 1990s, this vivid memory stuck with Hedley.
Years later, when Hedley was consulting with the product developers at Utility Inc. about technological innovations that could help keep police officers safe, he told the story of his downed colleague and asked: Could Utility invent a technology that could get help to an officer quickly if that officer is unable to communicate?
Hedley’s idea and subsequent conversations with the development team led to the BodyWorn Down feature that is now standard with the BodyWorn camera system.
“We work closely with our law enforcement partners and try to develop and implement technology that they're asking for,” said Jason Dombkowski, retired chief of police of West Lafayette, Indiana, and director of law enforcement relations for Utility. “The BodyWorn Down technology is especially important, as nothing else like it exists today.”
Call for backup automatically
Rolled out in late 2017, BodyWorn Down sends an alert when an officer has become prone in the field and needs backup.
“It's usually configured for 15 seconds, and every 5 seconds it does a countdown. It will say out loud, ‘BodyWorn will activate in 15 seconds,’ then 10 seconds, then 5 seconds,” said Dombkowski. “If after the 15 seconds, the prone officer does not respond, then it activates an alert and begins recording.”
The BodyWorn camera then sends a call-for-help message to the AVaiLWeb command center. This web-based platform provides the central hub for information that gives dispatchers, command staff and other officers a map view of the downed officer’s location based on GPS coordinates from the bodycam. The system then automatically sends alerts to other units in proximity to the incident scene.
AVaiLWeb integrates with an agency’s existing computer-aided dispatch system and uses data from those systems to create action zones. These zones can be configured so that alerts and other critical information can be automatically sent to any officer within the agency-defined zone or radius of the downed officer.
Designed to increase officer safety and preserve evidence
During any emergency situation, time is of the essence. But when an officer’s life is in danger, every millisecond counts. The interaction between the BodyWorn camera and AVaiLWeb provides greater situational awareness about which backup units are closest to respond to the downed officer and where they are in relation to the incident scene. Dispatch and command staff can stay informed by tracking the responding units on a map. Responding officers en route to the incident scene can get turn-by-turn directions through their BodyWorn camera.
Once the BodyWorn Down feature is activated, BodyWorn automatically starts recording. Up to 2 minutes of video and audio is prerecorded before activation in order to capture events that occurred in the critical moments before the officer went prone. The video evidence is automatically uploaded to cloud storage and quarantined for review by command staff.
Technology you hope you never have to use
Police departments can deploy BodyWorn Down in hopes that they never have to use it. But law enforcement must always be prepared for the unexpected. BodyWorn Down technology can speed a backup response and capture critical evidence by triggering automatic recording of bodycam footage in addition to providing critical data about the officer’s location and movements.
Although officer safety can never be guaranteed, the BodyWorn camera system gives police officers, dispatchers and command staff the tools they need to stay situationally aware. Should the unthinkable happen, BodyWorn Down can help ease officers’ minds that should they become incapacitated, their brothers and sisters in blue will soon be there to back them up.