Police Body Cams Actually Seem to Work


It turns out, despite all the controversy surrounding body cameras for law enforcement, it's helpful when police wear them... for everyone. Here's a snippet of a story from the Mail Tribune written by Nick Morgan

Thanks to an unblinking eye, a glance inside a car during an unrelated police stop cracked the case of a home-invasion robbery that terrified a family of three.

The snippet of video from a camera mounted on a police officer responding to a complaint of marijuana smoke at Motel 6 helped send five people to prison on robbery convictions.

The blink-and-you'll-miss-it key: a baseball bat lying on the front seat of Alejandro Medina-Mello's Honda Accord. The bat was spotted while the officer grabbed coats with Medina-Mello's permission during the stop, according to Deputy Chief Scott Clauson, who oversees Medford's body-mounted camera program.

The patrol officer had "no idea" what was taken from the home-invasion robbery, Clauson said. The officer was being courteous in grabbing the coats because it was cold outside.

Detectives, however, found the bright green and black bat inside the car matched the description of one stolen the night of Jan. 23, when five men barged into a Morrow Road house believing there were drugs inside. After giving the mother two black eyes but finding no drugs, they left with the bat, a PlayStation and an iPhone.

The seconds of footage in a 32-minute interaction led to the arrest and capture of Medina-Mello, Anthony Michael Moreno, Christian Lamar Brice, Jabriel Aaquann Fleming and Alfonso Alejandro Kesler, all of whom have been convicted in the robbery. The case illustrates the impact of a sharable second look in criminal justice -- a resource Medford has had only a year.

Why did it take so long to get police departments to implement these? Was it cost, fear of scandal, storage limitations, or a combination of all of them? This seems like one of the most practical uses mankind has ever found for a camera. People who serve the law are often justifiably or unjustifiably scrutinized for their actions. Shouldn't there be more transparency between the public and an agency that REQUIRES their officers to carry firearms? Forget he said she said, just roll the footage. In the story above it works to the officer's advantage. A weapon used to terrorize innocent people is seen in the footage linking the perpetrators to the crime. The criminals can't say the officer planted it there because we can all see it.

Body cams have become so important as a business tool that Taser, the company that was made famous for making, well, tasers, recently changed their name to Axon. The exact product the officer was wearing in the above story. 

axon on cop.jpg
The Axon cameras are simple and durable. When an officer is approaching a suspect or following whatever guidelines their precinct dictates, they press a button on the front of the Axon and it starts to record. There's even a configurable pre-event buffer. With a battery life of 12+ hours, if they have their buffer set to 20 seconds and they're walking down the street and something crazy happens, they just have to hit the record button and whatever happened in the previous 20 seconds is recorded. 

Other stats include:

  • Video Resolution -- 1080P / 720P / 480P
  • Video Format -- MPEG4
  • Field of View -- 143°
  • Battery Life -- 12+ hrs
  • Storage -- 64 GB
  • Record Time -- Up to 70 hrs

This is going to be such big business that Axon is giving the cameras away. One free camera with docks for the station and two mounts per officer. Why would they do that? Because you need to have a monthly subscription to their cloud based storage to use the device. It's like when Gillette used to send free razors to boys on their 18th birthdays. The money isn't in the stick, it's in the razor blades. 

Regardless of who pays for it or how it's made, it's clear that having an impartial witness along for every job is the only way forward. For if your life was on the line wouldn't you want everyone to know the truth?