Police body cameras always on, but not necessarily recording

Travis Perry
|
Sep 03, 2014 5:00 AM
Police body cameras always on, but not necessarily recording
Image courtesy Digital Ally Inc.

EYES ON: Law enforcement officers at the University of Kansas will begin wearing the FirstVU HD body-mounted camera to capture video of police interactions with the public. However, the cameras will only save recorded video when an officer deems it necessary.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Law enforcement at the University of Kansas is implementing new technological measures to record video of all police interactions with the public.

There’s just one small catch: Officers wearing the cameras also control what — and when — it records.

KU Police Department Capt. James Anguiano conceded that the need for officers to physically depress a button to begin capturing video opens the door for misuse and abuse.

“Yes, there could be some of that, but fortunately with most places there’s policies in place to ask (the officer) why it wasn’t utilized,” Anguiano told Kansas Watchdog.

At a cost of roughly $900 apiece, the KU Police Department recently purchased eight body-mounted cameras, as well as a number of spare cables and batteries, to outfit officers while on patrol. In all, the department says the total bill came to around $8,000.

Manufactured by Digital Ally Inc., the FirstVu HD body cameras are always on and taking-in video, but the officer must make the decision to push a button to record anything. Anguiano said this is simply a matter of practicality.

“Unfortunately, with technology today, if everything was recording as far as a live feed, you would be using a lot of not only batteries but also recording life,” he noted. “There are a lot of things that go on in a daily basis when an officer, they could be just be out getting gas at the gas pumps. It would take up video space on the camera, if something did occur they could run out of video in the middle of it.”

Anguiano compared the body-mounted cameras to now-ubiquitous police vehicle dashboard cameras, which usually begin capturing video when an officer flips on the vehicle’s lights or sirens.

While the potential for abuse is ever present, Anguiano told Kansas Watchdog he believes there’s a strong incentive for officers to record their actions.

“The biggest thing about dash cams and body cams is it not only protects the officer, it protects the public,” he said. “When you see complaints, a lot of places have shown complaints against officers go down when you institute some kind of camera system.”

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