Clinton Police Department upgrades body cameras for greater accountability and security
CLINTON — The Clinton Police Department has upgraded to new body camera technology that automatically uploads video recordings, making it easier for officers to stay safe and accountable.
The new technology comes from Silicon Valley-based Visual Labs Inc. and works like an app on a smartphone, according to chief Stanley “Rusty” Bell.
While working, each officer has an Android cell phone with the body camera app downloaded, making it easy to start and stop recordings and move them to other devices.
In many ways, the body camera app works like most apps. When agents start their shift, they log in and the screen displays three options: start video recording, take photo, and start audio recording. But unlike apps that need to be opened every time to use, the body camera app runs continuously in the background until the agent logs out.
So agents don’t have to pull out the smartphone and touch the screen to start a recording. Instead, they simply press the buttons on the side of the phone – without removing it from a holder on the front of their vest – and a recording will begin.
After completing video recordings, officers can tag them with relevant information, such as “Traffic Stop” or “Training”. The recordings are then automatically uploaded to the police department’s database, making them available to officers on their computers and to those with administrative status, including Bell.
Records saved in the database include videos and other information, such as the location where the video was taken and the speed, if the agent was moving.
If a smartphone has no service at the end of a recording, an encrypted version is saved on the phone until it is in service. The video is then downloaded automatically.
“It gives us both liability-based and security-based features,” Bell said.
Previously, the department used basic, inexpensive cameras that anyone could buy online. They were clunky, according to Bell, and required more than one process to transfer video from a camera to a computer.
Bell said he looked at several options for new body cameras when he came across the one he settled on. The department received two smartphones from the company for a two-month trial. After a week, however, the city police allegedly liked the cameras and said they didn’t want a break between the trial period and registration because they didn’t want to go back to the old system. .
Bell said the police department received a good deal on smartphones. Upon signing up for service with AT&T, the department received a credit that covered the cost of purchasing the phones. Now, each month, the department pays $47 and $49 for body camera data management, or about $1,200 per year per smartphone.
Bell said the total cost was slightly higher than the price of other body camera equipment he had considered, but that equipment did not have automatic downloads or other features included in the system he had selected.
“It involves the officer having to come in, anchor the camera, make sure it’s loaded, do whatever it takes to move the video to where it needs to be,” Bell said. “With these (smartphones), officers don’t have to do any of that.”
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