Cops on camera

Three former Seattle police officers are developing a small video camera that can record interactions between police and the public. It's the size of a pager and can easily be worn on the uniform.
Keeping an eye on cops

As leaders in Seattle and elsewhere call for stronger police accountability, three former Seattle officers hope to cash in on that movement with an action cam for police.


The camera is lightweight, about the size of a pager, and waterproof -- the latter feature being something that officers on Seattle's rainy beat know is paramount, said Chris Myers, who ended his 18-year police career in January to join VIEVU.

The PVR-LE easily clips onto an officer's lapel or belt. The 4-gigabyte hard drive records up to four hours of video.

If someone accuses an officer of wrongdoing, the camera should reveal the truth. Or, maybe it could help bolster a case if it records a drunken driver slurring through obscenities, its developers say.


As patrol car cameras became more common in 2004, the International Association of Chiefs of Police sponsored a study that found 93 percent of police-misconduct cases in which video is available result in the officer's exoneration.

Cameras also serve as a deterrent. Fifty-one percent of residents acknowledged that they would be more watchful of their own behavior if an officer warned them in advance that they were being recorded.

"People act differently on camera. If a police officer comes up to you and says, 'This is being recorded,' you're likely to be much more congenial," Ward said.


This is a great great tool. It should help the public feel more comfortable that their police are acting professionally, make it easier to get rid of the few bad police officers that are out there, and make it easier to resolve questions of excessive force.

The interesting thing about the device is that there is nothing inherently police-y about it. It's a simple 4GB video camera that apparently can run for quite a while. I see no reason why civilians couldn't wear these as well.

And that's where things get really fascinating. Besides the Borg implications (it's not actually part of our biology -- yet) the documentary possibilities are endless.

Right now the decision to put security cameras up around NYC is controversial. Imagine what happens when a significant number of people start sporting their own security cameras as they walk around the town.

All it takes is a simple wireless connection to a cell phone and all of someone's activities can stream live on to the internet.

With this new product, we are not far from that point.


Anonymous said...

I realize that most of the time it's the suspects who act like asses for police who are just trying to do their jobs, but sometimes I wonder if average citizens wouldn't be well off to have cameras like this on them too. Have you seen that video of the Baltimore, MD, cop completing losing his cool at some skateboarding kids? See it here. I would be furious if he went off at my children like that for no reason, and I'd surely want to know about it. And I still can hardly believe he acted like this with someone FILMING him, too; I wonder how much worse he is when he has less of an audience.

Cromely said...

I'm getting more and more comfortable with the idea of documenting my entire public life. Even if I don't broadcast it all, it will help some poor grad student who chooses to write their dissertation on my some years from now.