There were about 780,000 police officers around the United States in 2012. This number is expected to increase by at least 41,000 by the year 2022. More than 72% of all highway patrol and state police cars, vans and trucks have been equipped with cameras and other systems to capture video. This has risen from 3,400 such systems that were in place in 2000 to nearly 17,500 in 2003. More and more police departments and law enforcement divisions are adding cameras to their vehicles. At the same time, the number of body cameras used by law enforcement is also on the rise. There are some good reasons for this and things to remember to make your video system work for you.
- Body cameras can limit the liability for officers and others. If your agency has new body cameras, you have some decisions to make. Do you want to have a set time when the body cameras must be turned on? Do you want to have them just run all the time and record everything? There are pros and cons to both options. For the constant recording option, you will end up with an absolutely enormous amount of video. Not only is this hard to go through but it costs more to store. Different agencies deal with this in different ways do you should work with your staff to determine your best course of action. Just remember that the more you capture, the more you can back up your staff should questions about an encounter be raised later. That is one of the best benefits of police body cameras.
- Be careful about how you store the footage. The video that is captured by police dash camera systems and police body cameras should be treated the same way you treat any other kind of evidence that is collected for court cases or other investigations. That means it need to be secured properly. If you do not take the proper precautions with the video that you have captured, you run the risk of having it be stolen or lost. You also need ot use the right kind of software so that you can tag the video for easier retrieval later. For instance, you can label video by the kind of call that was responded to. If officers are called to a domestic violence situation, any video that is captured by the body cameras can be labeled as such to allow easier retrieval later on.
- Video helps you retain detailed of incidents that might otherwise be lost. Video taken during an incident can be instrumental in the prosecution of a case. This is one of the reasons labeling the video by the kind of incident and storing it securing, for a period of time, can be very helpful for everyone involved. Investigators and prosecutors can go back and review the video from the body cameras to get the evidence they need to arrest a suspect or prosecute a case.
- Your agency’s relationship to the courts will help. How long do you need to keep all of the evidence you have captured with police car video cameras and body cameras? The evidence that was captured this way may be useful for a long time after the incident is over but for how long? You need to work with the courts so that you can work on a data management system that works for both of you. Sometimes that evidence will be useful for years but video may have an expiration date of only a few months.
- Will you look to the cloud to store your video? Using the cloud for the storage of your video evidence may make a lot of sense. Some agencies will only store on servers they maintain onsite. Having a back up is always a good idea, for all of your data. You never know when a system may suffer some cataclysmic failure and you need to back it up somewhere.
Whether you love them or you hate them, police car and body cameras are here to stay so you should make the most of using them.