As part of a renewed focus on law enforcement accountability and safety, President Obama petitioned Congress for the funds to buy more than 50,000 body cameras for police agencies nationwide. This represents a $75 million allocation for the lapel-mounted body cameras, and additional funds for hardware to support video capture, storage, and analytics. While the body cameras represent the most visible part of the high-tech initiative – in-vehicle routers that support always-on internet connectivity are equally important.
Police Body Cameras
Some police departments are finding novel uses for police body-cameras, going beyond producing a static record of a police interaction. Beachwood PD uses live video streams to provide real-time updates to dispatchers whenever police officers are on the scene – allowing the dispatchers (and response teams) to assess the situations on the ground. Police offers also have access to live video from fixed cameras, such as jail cameras, and the video streams of their fellow officers. Live video streaming is dependent on a consistent and high-speed connection, and is only possible through in-vehicle 4G routers like the Cradlepoint COR IBR1100.
Evidence supporting the use of police body cameras is overwhelming. A 2014 study by the College of Policing found that the presence of a body camera resulted in a higher frequency of criminal charges – due to a higher confidence by the officers that “the cameras gave more detail than a statement could capture”. The US Department of Justice issued a joint-report with Booz Allen Hamilton that found that body cameras also led to a statistically significant drop in untruthful complaints against police, and that body camera video could be a valuable training aid. All of these benefits, however, are predicated on a reliable and secure means of uploading/storing the body-cam videos onto a central server.
Dash cameras have been used in police vehicles since the mid-1980s, using relatively archaic video capture/storage technology that saved video on VHS tape or DVD within the vehicle itself. This poses a number of problems for the police agency that relies on the dashboard-mounted cameras. For one, the video is vulnerable to physical deletion or destruction from within the car. Secondly, the video can only be analyzed retroactively – often too late to make “in the moment” decisions that could promote officer safety.
With 4G connectivity, police vehicles can use high-definition dashboard cameras that are constantly connected to servers within the police headquarters and third-party video backup services. This gives police departments greater granularity on how they store and utilize their videos – allowing them to save unaltered copies of dashboard videos when they are needed in a criminal investigation. Live streams of dashboard cameras can also be compressed, encrypted, and streamed in police dispatch centers to inform command units of the whereabouts and operations of their police officers during a call.
Should a police car become disabled, or a police camera/storage device destroyed, 4G connectivity provides a means to securely back up the video recordings at pre-arranged intervals to minimize the data loss. Whenever a police officer is within range of their in-vehicle router, their police cameras can synchronize with off-site storage centers – limiting the amount of data that could be permanently lost due to hardware malfunctions or destruction.
4G connectivity also frees the camera systems of the storage limitation that would otherwise be placed on them by the availability of local storage media. Early VHS and DVD cameras could only capture a limited amount of low-resolution video, perpetually overwriting video unless it was selected for storage/archival for a criminal investigation. With high-speed 4G connectivity, video can be uploaded to central servers periodically (or live), freeing up space on the on-camera storage device without requiring a visit to HQ.
Third Party Audit Requirements
To be admissible in court as evidence, police videos need to follow chain of custody requirements set by the Federal Rules of Evidence. Specifically, the video capture mechanism must produce videos that are free from changes, additions, or deletions – and they must preserve the videos independently of the recorder’s input.
By connecting a body camera to the Internet through 3G/4G/LTE, recordings can be uploaded directly to secure third-party storage facilities where they can be guaranteed to meet the Federal Evidence Standards. Always-connected in-vehicle routers free the officer from the need to cache videos on hard-drives or recording media within the vehicle or on his/her person, so the video product is tamper-free and ready for use in court or review proceedings.