Security

London cops join latest police craze: wearable cameras

Taser AXON Body and Flex cameras, with sunglasses

Above: Taser AXON Body and Flex cameras, with sunglasses

Image Credit: Taser

This week, five hundred miniaturized video cameras are adorning the uniforms of London’s Metropolitan Police.

The one-year pilot program is comparable to more than a thousand American police departments for whom point-of-view, Taser-made video wearables are now being tested — or have been standardized — as police equipment.

“People behave better when they’re being filmed,” Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle told VentureBeat. “Cops and ordinary people.”

He pointed to a Cambridge University blind study of 114 video-wearing officers in the Rialto, Calif., police department. It attributed an 80 percent reduction in citizen complaints and a 58 percent drop in the use of force by police to the use of the video.

The cameras, Tuttle told us, help to compel “better behavior on both sides, [because] transparency cuts both ways.”

As an example of how the cameras can curb unwanted police behavior, he pointed to the judicial decision last year in New York City against the department’s stop-and-frisk policy of minorities. The judge required a one-year pilot program where some NYPD officers had to wear the Axon cameras.

The London proof-of-concept field test, which uses Taser’s AXON Body wearable cameras, is the largest such field experiment of body-worn video by police. Another model, the Flex, can be attached to sunglasses or a cap. In announcing the London test, the police showed several videoclips from initial tests, including one where a suspect admitted stabbing the victim.

Either the Body or the Flex can record up to 13 hours of video on solid state memory. The video cannot be exported, deleted, or edited by the officer, although it can be viewed wirelessly on a smartphone. Each camera needs to be turned on to record audio and video. A buffer of 30 seconds of audio-less video is continually being recorded and then deleted — unless audio/video recording begins, in which case the buffer is kept as a pre-roll.

After a shift is over, the officer places his or her assigned camera into a dock. The encrypted video is then uploaded to a video evidence cloud management service maintained by the Taser subsidiary Evidence.com. This procedure is intended to minimize any chain-of-custody issues for the video. Footage is deleted from the cloud after a month, unless it contains evidence.

In London, officers have to announce they are recording, and people can request the cameras be turned off. Tuttle said that the rules are different in many U.S. states, where police are not required to stop recording.

Via The Verge