Some police departments are showing interest in a new type of video camera that can be mounted directly on officers’ guns, saying it may offer a better view of officer-involved shootings than body cameras. Some law enforcement officials and civil rights groups are skeptical, the Associated Press reports. Critics note that gun cameras start recording only after weapons are removed from holsters and won’t capture what led to officers drawing their guns, or other interactions with the public. Besides the better view, supporters say the pros include lower video storage costs because gun cameras record much less often than body cameras, and a feature in some models that instantly alerts dispatchers and nearby police when officers draw their weapons and may need help.
Officers’ arms, walls and other objects can get in the way of body cameras, as they did in a New York City officer’s fatal shooting of Miguel Richards last month. Officers’ body cameras also may not be turned on. “It’s kind of cutting-edge technology now,” said Assistant Chief Michael Kovacsev of St. Petersburg, Fl., which tested gun cameras this year. “One thing about the gun camera is you can actually see what’s going on. You actually get to see the viewpoint of the officer where the weapon is pointed.” Gun-mounted cameras have been around for years, mostly for sport shooting enthusiasts, but have not caught on with law enforcement. Some police departments use cameras mounted on stun guns that activate when the safety switches are turned off. The NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union both say gun cameras should not be used instead of body cameras. “I think there’s a lot of context you’re going to be missing with the gun-mounted cameras,” said the NAACP’s Ngozi Ndulue.