One reason for increased interest in body cams and other recording devices is that traditional vehicle cameras have some distinct limitations. After all, they’re dashboard-mounted and have a restricted field of view. If a confrontation escalates and moves off camera, there’s no video footage to clarify any recorded audio. This causes problems when writing reports, in court, and when an officer is re-watching a video to critique his or her own performance, a technique many officers say they use.
Emerging technology has made dashboard cams much more effective. There are now systems available that coordinate footage from as many as five cameras. Infra-red cameras can be added, as well. These recording devices offer hi-definition video, and enable you to document a 360º panoramic view of what’s going on in and around your vehicle.
The audio is much improved over traditional vehicle cam systems. Officers wear a belt mike, which can be turned on by the officer at the beginning of a traffic stop, and which can also be triggered automatically by turning on the light bar, exceeding certain speeds, or even opening the back doors of the vehicle. The mike can record and transmit at an increased radius from the car than the older systems. It can even handle obstructions between the officer and the car.
The system offers a lot of viewing flexibility for officers. For example, the monitor located up front can display streaming video from all of the cameras, or isolate footage from one camera. It can also replay footage. This is useful in the event that you initially miss something, or rate a person or event as low priority. When additional information causes you to reassess the situation, you can go back and watch earlier incidents again to collect important information, such as what clothing a suspect was wearing or the make and model of a vehicle.
There’s another advantage, one we bring up often on this blog. Cameras increase safety for everyone involved. The more cameras you’re running, the fewer officer complaints you’ll receive. Cameras are known to decrease use-of-force incidents by thirty percent. Officers report that when they tell suspects there are cameras running, situations typically de-escalate. And officers can feel more confident about the accuracy of their reports and court testimony.