One of the great things about working as part of the public transit system is that people seem to leave EVERY conceivable newspaper around since obviously they are too good to actually dispose of them. The upside of this is that I get to look over/ read 6-8 different newspapers a day. Well yesterday I found “Real Change” which is a local newspaper sold by homeless/ low income folks. I actually support their business model since they sell these papers to the vendors for $.35 and then the vendor sells it to the customer allowing homeless folks to actually earn some money rather than just begging. But thats another matter.
The article that caught my eye is entitled Would new cop cameras protect and serve citizens? the short version is that at least 2 local Police departments are considering these small wearable cameras to be attached to officers uniforms so when an incident happens it is recorded on wide angle video with audio. The idea behind this is to provide an “impartial” witness. My libertarian side screams that this is a major privacy invasion but I also feel that in all reality anyone who lives in a major American city likely spends most of their day on camera anyway, between malls/ parking lots/ office buildings/ traffic cams /ect we are already “one nation under surveillance”. This makes me think that these cameras might actually do more good than harm. However according to the article ” In Lake Forest Park, Parrish wears Vievu PVR-LE2 and is evaluating it for the department. He said he turns it on when he’s approaching a citizen to make contact, mostly in traffic stops, and tells them they’re being recorded.” This is the part that bothers me, if these things are going to be used they need to be on all the time and have the recording capacity of at least 12-14hrs since the average LEO shift is 10-12hrs. They should be turned on at the start of shift and off at the end. I feel that adding one more duty for an officer as he approaches somebody is going to risk officer safety. Also picture this scenario, officer is on patrol, they see somebody in need or an emergency situation, they quickly call dispatch and “call out” then jump out of their car and rush to the scene. Somewhere between scanning the scene for safety and trying to figure out what exactly is happening they forget to trigger the camera. Then the situation goes south and they end up using force in one manner or another. The department does their investigation and finds that they don’t have the video footage, then somebody has to determine of this was intentional or human error. Of course the media will demonize the officer and assume that he intentionally turned the camera off. Also we can assume that as soon as these get issued out their will be some sort of requirement that an officer turns on the camera when coming up to a scene, this seems like a way to have a lot of disciplinary actions for what are at least in some cases honest mistakes. In fact the article brings up some of these issues,
Lake Forest Park’s Officer Parrish has found the Vievu cameras aren’t perfect.
When he goes to download video from the camera at the end of his shift, he only gets a 95 percent download rate. Whether it’s the camera’s fault or a problem uploading the video to the police department’s computer, he’s losing about 5 percent of the video he takes, he said. All in all I like the idea and think that it would protect officers and reduce complaints that are exaggerated or completely fabricated. The artice does mention some current issues in the law that would need to be fixed before these can be used widely in the field but I feel that adding a LEO exemption to some of these privacy laws would not be difficult.
Below I posted the technical stats from the Vievu website itself the part that really bothers me is the 4hr battery life and the 4hr recording time. These need to be tippled before I feel that these are ready for the field use.
- Increased Low light Capability
- Enhanced Image Quality
- Digital Signature Security
- 4 hr Recording Time
- 4 hr Battery Life
- 4 GB Internal Memory
- Date & Time Stamp (GMT)
- VGA 640×480 Resolution
- 30 Frames Per Second
- Color Video & Audio
- Waterproof (IPX5)
- Dimensions: ~ 3″x2″x.75″
- Compatible: Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7
- Green Design – RoHS & WEEE certified