What future capabilities can police expect from dash cams?

I spoke with Jaime Carlin of WatchGuard video to get a sense of what the future holds for this tech


Few forces are impacting law enforcement like video. Policing in the Video Age, P1's yearlong special editorial focus on video in law enforcement, aims to address all facets of the topic with expanded analysis and reporting.

In the first installment of this four-part signature coverage effort, The Video Technologies Shaping Policing, we address how technologies including police drones, throwable robots, body-worn cameras, dash cams, and videos shot by the public are impacting law enforcement. Click here to learn more about the project.

Police dash cameras have evolved significantly since they were initially deployed in the early 2000s. A staple in most patrol cars, it’s truly amazing how much this tech continues to evolve. I reached out to Jaime Carlin, Communications Manager at WatchGuard Video, to learn more about today’s dash cams and what capabilities law enforcement can expect to see from the tech in the future.

1. What features do today’s dash cams have that are helping to improve officer safety?

A still image from a dashcam video. (Photo/Chattanooga Police Department via AP)
A still image from a dashcam video. (Photo/Chattanooga Police Department via AP)

Carlin: Today’s dash cams are improving officer safety in several ways. For example, dash cams are now integrating with body-worn cameras. This integration provides multiple angles on a given incident. Synched systems are constantly monitoring the status of one another. If one begins a recording, the others can choose to begin recording as well.

Further, some systems are allowing officers to record after-the-fact. If an officer doesn’t have time to activate a recording, a video of the incident can still be retrieved by the agency’s administrator. This feature is recording in the background. If the video is needed, it can be marked and will be uploaded as evidence like any other recording. If the footage isn’t needed, it will be recorded over with subsequent use of the system.

Cameras in the in-car systems are continuing to improve. The panoramic camera has been particularly helpful in providing a broader field of recording as well as having an additional HD camera view that can be rotated to the correct angle depending upon the stop/scene. 

2. What advancements in dash cams can law enforcement expect to see in the near future?

Carlin: Expect to see cameras continue to improve with in-car systems. This will become essential for a variety of reasons, but chief among them will be the desire to integrate license plate recognition and facial recognition capabilities. In order to achieve integration of these two technologies, cameras will need to improve greatly. For example, facial recognition requires pixel resolution that yields an image containing approximately 50 pixels between the eyes. In addition to an improvement to the cameras for facial and license plate recognition, there will also have to be advancements with regard to processing power in order to run these recognition programs in real time.

The community and public are continuing to demand officers are equipped with video evidence tools. As that demand continues and grows, so will FOIA requirements for the departments. An important feature to in-car video will be the addition of significant redaction capabilities. 

3. How will these advancements benefit officer safety and investigations?

Carlin: With any improvement to what the cameras capture and the quality of the video captured through better pixel resolution, there is advancement in officer safety and benefit to subsequent investigation. Adding license plate and facial recognition to in-car capabilities will provide the officer an added advantage of subsidizing their intuition at a scene with precise information about whom they are interacting with.

4. With these new advancements, what policy issues will agencies need to address?

Carlin: Agencies will need to look closely at the privacy laws and rulings of legislative bodies as it pertains to this technology. Beyond that, there will need to be ideological investment within the community prior to deployment.

Conclusion

The future of dash cams looks promising. With solution providers exploring integration with other solutions like facial recognition and license plate readers, the utility and demonstrable return on investment of these systems will become much stronger.

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