San Rafael, CA – February 3, 2014. A picture is worth a thousand words, and San Rafael Police officers may soon be recording the images and conversations of their work days.
Last week the police department began a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of body-worn cameras for officers in the field. A body-worn camera (BWC) is a mobile audio and video capture device that allows an officer to record what they see and hear. “The use of body-worn cameras will assist our department in using 21st Century technology to better perform our service to the public” said Chief Diana Bishop. “The comprehensive use of the cameras has been shown to reduce the incidents in which force is used because people are less likely to resist officers when they know they are being recorded. It is also an important tool to protect officers from baseless accusations. The cameras are invaluable when it comes to documenting criminal incidents, including field sobriety tests, spontaneous statements, and violent encounters.”
The use of BWCs by law enforcement is becoming increasingly common in California and across the U.S. A study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police found that 94% of citizens supported the use of video and a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union is also in favor of law enforcement agencies using wearable camera technology.
After considering several vendors, the department has selected a product made by VIEVU for the project. The camera, the LE3, is about the size of pager and is worn clipped to the officer’s shirt in the center of the chest. The camera is manually activated, and a bright green circle on the front indicates to anyone facing the officer that the device is recording. Four officers are participating in the testing, one each from the dayshift and nightshift, a motorcycle officer, and a downtown foot beat officer. The BWC project is expected to run for 90 days and will be reviewed in April.