Forget Body Cams: The Alternative Police Have Been Waiting For
Violence involving law enforcement is spreading across the nation, according to The Washington Post database, which reported 963 people shot and killed by police in 2016. With tensions between police and communities on edge, there is a push to better understand police standoffs and the decision to pull the trigger.
Centinel Solutions has developed a first-of-its-kind, patent-pending, American-made alternative to the contentious and controversial body cameras; a gun mounted camera.
“Your typical body camera will pre-record 30 seconds before you hit the record button…so in an officer-involved shooting you can appreciate that if there is a threat, the priority isn’t going to be to turn the body camera on,” says Max Kramer, CEO of Centinel Solutions.
“When the Shield Weapon Camera is removed from the holster it wakes up very quickly before it’s fully extended, so you are getting a video recording in the middle of the firearm being pulled from the holster,” explains Kramer. The camera then turns off once holstered again and the footage is saved locally.
Unlike the body camera’s line of sight, which could be disrupted once the police officer’s firearm is drawn, the Shield Weapon Camera offers no conscious activation requirements and clear site range.
The Department of Justice has allocated $20 million for the purchase of body cameras for the nation. Designed to be Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) compliant and able to fit all service weapons and holsters nationwide, the Shield Weapon Camera is a viable alternative.
"I hope that people recognize that it’s something that’s been created with the community in mind”
“This to me seems like a very sensible option for those who are on the fence about the costs and privacy concerns,” adds Kramer.
According to a 2015 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, in 2013, 32% of local police departments provided at least some officers with body-worn cameras. Still a hot debate, there are inconclusive reports on a body camera’s effectiveness.
“The success rate is 100% through our tests,” says Kramer.
Tested throughout the nation in various agencies, the Shield Weapon Camera is offering a much needed option for police.
“We spoke to the unions and they were all saying, ‘this is what we needed’…with a body camera that’s a question of when do you record, when do you not record, what’s privacy, what’s not privacy? So this would be ‘I pulled my weapon, this is why I pulled it,’” says Anthony Holloway, chief of the St. Petersburg, Florida Police Department.
For the past five months, Holloway’s agency has been testing the Shield Weapon Camera and weighing the option to invest in traditional body cams.
“They have an extra feature that when you pull your weapon, it sends an alert to the supervisors and partners that the weapon has been pulled so they know you need help,” adds Holloway.
While the devices are synced through Bluetooth and WiFi, safeguards and integrity controls were also built in. “An administrator or shift supervisor will be notified of the battery status… if the device is actually pulled from the holster or if someone is trying to turn it off,” says Kramer.
He adds: “The trend across the country is every time you point your weapon at somebody a supervisor has to come to the scene. It’s a very lengthy process and it’s not that streamlined so we have been able to streamline that process.”
There is not a lot of research on the effectiveness of body cams. A study by George Mason University has found body cameras may reduce complaints against the police or result in quicker resolution of complaints; it is uncertain whether that means increased accountability or improved police or citizen behavior.
“We would have to talk to the community; you wouldn’t see what led up to the incident…would the community be happy not seeing why the officer drew his weapon but why the officer pulled the trigger?” asks Holloway.
“I think, I hope that it’s used rather infrequently. Obviously I hope that people recognize that it’s something that’s been created with the community in mind,” says Kramer.
Be sure to watch the Shield Weapon Camera in full force in the video above.