Trending Topics
Sponsored Content

A body camera for smaller agencies

Motorola’s powerful, budget-friendly VB400 system gives this Oklahoma PD the benefits of body cameras without added cost and complexity

Sponsored by

For Hobart PD in Oklahoma, body cameras are a key tool in an ecosystem that helps officers perform their duties safely and effectively.

Motorola Solutions

Traffic stops, burglaries, domestic violence calls, welfare checks, noise complaints, shootings. On any given day, police officers in Hobart, Oklahoma, respond to the same variety of incidents as their peers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Atlanta.

The difference is that in a small agency like Hobart, “we have to work so many different aspects and angles of this job,” said Brandon Ammerman, assistant chief of the Hobart Police Department. Agencies like his don’t have the resources of a larger urban department, so officers work most cases from start to finish.

“We don’t have the luxury of calling a detective who proceeds with the investigation,” said Ammerman.

That’s why technology – and the ability to adapt technology to the agency’s needs, from in-car video systems to radios to body cameras – is especially critical for smaller departments.

Hobart, with 3,000 residents, is a small town in rural Oklahoma, about 120 miles west of Oklahoma City, and the county seat of Kiowa County.

It’s a tight-knit community, according to Officer Lewis Keefer. “Everyone watches out for everyone else. It’s homey, but it’s also busy enough to stay interesting.” Police officers here are deeply invested in their community, often showing up at the darkest moment in people’s lives, he adds. People they typically know well.

The police department in Hobart has eight sworn officers. Many are born and raised here. Some, like Keefer, have a background as firefighters and EMTs. Others have been in the military or have previously worked in the private sector – one, for example, was a wind turbine technician before he felt the calling to become a cop.

Despite television’s obsession with big city police departments, Hobart PD is the norm rather than the exception in America. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly half of all U.S. local law enforcement agencies have fewer than 10 sworn officers.

Hobart PD may have limited resources – a small staff and a modest budget – yet the agency is committed to technological advancement and excellence. The department is a long-time user of Motorola Solutions for radios, dispatch consoles and in-car video systems. The most recent addition is Motorola’s VB400 body camera.

The VB400 is a powerful, budget-friendly body camera designed for any agency, but especially useful for smaller ones. All configuration and maintenance of the VB400 can be done with backend software. It allows officers to grab their cameras and get to work with minimal training and disruption. The camera includes dual microphones, a wide-angle lens and intuitive buttons that enable every interaction in the field is captured in high definition. When the camera is docked, footage is safely stored in the backend system and automatically encrypted.

The VB400 smoothly integrates with other technology solutions. For example, the body camera starts recording when radios enter an emergency state or weapons are unholstered.

It also features peer-assisted recording, meaning it can be programmed to record when another camera within proximity is activated. That’s invaluable, said Keefer, especially in a high-stress situation or when another officer asks for assistance. Backup or secondary units do not have to focus on turning on a camera. “All I have to worry about is showing up and making sure the other officer is okay,” he said.

The VB400 is small, versatile, yet robust and resilient. With its diverse mounting options, it fits different uniform types, from tactical armor to basic t-shirts, from bulletproof outer vests to jackets. It has a 12-hour battery life and a durable outer casing.

While the system doesn’t break the bank, it is not a compromise, says Joe Brady, a veteran of Chicago PD and now an industry expert at Motorola Solutions. “It comes with all the technological advances for officers to handle the complex challenges of the job.”

The VB400 system can be custom tailored to the department’s needs, setup and workflow, added Brady. “You can make it as simple or as complex as officers want it to be.”

The camera’s versatility was one of the main selling points for Hobart PD, said Ammerman. The VB400 is “adaptable, user friendly and easy-to-use.” Most of Hobart’s officers are tech-savvy, yet they appreciate the painless setup of the VB400, a process one officer describes as “basically, a plug-and-play.”

But it’s more than just convenience, noted Keefer, especially in a rural department where officers must perform several roles at the same time. The job can quickly become complicated, sometimes overwhelming. The simplicity of the camera and not having to that the equipment is functional and operating properly “is a godsend,” he added.


Hobart PD uses the VB400 body camera system with on-premise storage, avoiding fees for cloud storage and still allowing the agency to export evidentiary footage onto DVD for sharing with prosecutors.

Motorola Solutions

Another key reason why Hobart PD decided to go with the VB400 is the ability to download the body camera footage on premises, through the backend software into the agency’s computers, versus uploading it into the cloud – in part, because high-speed internet is still spotty in rural Oklahoma. It also helps that the department doesn’t have to pay recurring fees for cloud storage and other add-on features.

“For us, the on-prem solution is fantastic,” said Ammerman.

The software allows the agency to export evidentiary body camera footage onto a DVD. The department can then “take the disk to the prosecutor’s office in, say, Oklahoma City,” said Motorola’s Brady, adding that a small agency like Hobart PD doesn’t necessarily have the time or energy to make everything completely digitized.

“We’re meeting them where they are, and we’re not going to take that feature away,” he said.

For Hobart PD, body cameras are a key tool in an ecosystem that helps officers perform their duties safely and effectively. The agency also uses body cameras to instill and improve transparency and trust in a community where everyone knows and depends on each other.

“The body camera keeps us honest and keeps the public honest. It regulates all that behavior and serves almost as a backup officer,” said Keefer. He considers the technology a lifesaver. “It tells the story. It captures the whole event. From the time we arrive to the time we leave.” Whether that’s a traffic stop, a welfare check, a shooting – or whatever else happens on a given day in Hobart, Oklahoma.

Read next:
For law enforcement, public/private partnerships add to coverage and efficiency

Katja Ridderbusch is an award-winning print, radio and online journalist based in Atlanta. She reports on health care, criminal justice and law enforcement topics. Her work has appeared in outlets such as Time, the Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, USA Today, Kaiser Health News and more.