Police Cameras Vary; Their Features Can Have Profound Effects


Police body cameras vary a lot, and the variations, some contentious, can have a profound effect on how the cameras are used and who benefits from them, reports NPR. Most cameras buffer, or save video of what happens just before an officer presses record. Taser’s buffer function doesn’t include sound. The company’s Steve Tuttle says that’s to avoid recording what an officer was saying right before an incident. “It’s video-only at that point. We want to protect the officers’ privacy, because those private conversations could take the context out of what they were saying, especially a joke,” Tuttle says. Police unions like this feature. Reformers say it means Taser cameras will miss sounds, such as a comment inside a squad car that could explain why an officer pulled someone over.

A company called Safety Vision makes a camera with a monitor on it. “This makes it very easy for the officer to go back, in the field, after he made a recording, and actually review, recollect everything that just happened, and that way his report’s going to be accurate,” said the company’s Mike Tennon. It may seem like a convenient feature, but it’s part of a heated debate over whether officers should be able to view their videos before writing their incident reports. Reformers say officers should not be allowed to view their videos before writing reports, because they might tailor their reports to what the camera caught — and didn’t catch. Should a camera show that it’s on? Should there always be a blinking red light? Some manufacturers say this enhances a camera’s deterrent effect, sort of like people seeing themselves on security monitors as they walk into a store.

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