|With incidents of police violence causing protests and drawing media attention around the United States, many people have called for a wider use of body cameras and other recording devices to prevent abuses of power. As a result, a number of police departments around the country have started added cameras to their cars and uniforms. Palo Alto, CA is one such municipality, but officers say the devices aren’t just helpful when it comes to protecting the public: the technology is also helping them gather evidence of crime and prevent false complaints.Thanks to new in car camera systems that have been installed in every police vehicle in Palo Alto, officers now have access to an almost panoramic view of their environment. The system includes five different cameras, including one on the dash, two on their blind spots, one in the backseat, and one at the car’s rear. This network is controlled with a touch screen, allowing the driver to bring up any one of the video feeds with a simple tap. Most importantly, the in car camera systems can capture up to 40 hours of video, which can be rewound and revisited if necessary.
The Palo Alto Police Department says that the cameras will be primarily used to gather and preserve evidence that can be used in court. With several recent cases, including the Ferguson grand jury trial, proving just how subjective eyewitness evidence can be, the value of this video evidence is clear. However, the department has also stated that the in car camera systems will also be used to hold everyone, from citizens to cops, accountable for their actions.
“In Car Cameras for law enforcement benefits the public, the officer and police administration. These benefits include: Officer Safety, Officer accountability, Public opinion, Citizen Complaints and the ability to use recorded footage for training and review. In today’s environment, it’s crucial that departments utilize both in car video and officer body cameras so that every citizen encounter is recorded. Recorded video can then be crucial for the officer, department or the public in determining facts in any encounter,” says Jubal Ragsdale, President of 10-8 Video LLC.
While the cameras are still a new addition, Palo Alto’s police chief has reported that the agency has already seen a positive impact: the number of complaints against officers has dropped. However, with police violence still a controversial topic in many areas and protests continuing in some cities, it remains to be seen if other departments will follow Palo Alto’s lead.