How a body-worn camera upgrade brought this department more benefits than they expected
Clayton County PD’s level of efficiency and community transparency increased after acquiring their new equipment
Sponsored by Utility, Inc.
By Courtney Levin, Police1 BrandFocus Staff
Most citizens expect that law enforcement officers are using a recording device during their shift, whether it’s in-car video or a body-worn camera. What isn’t often considered is how those devices can play an integral role in the relationship between cops and their communities.
In Clayton County, Georgia, a short drive south of Atlanta, the police department started using BWCs many years ago. With just under 400 sworn, the department’s uniformed officers there use these devices daily.
In October 2016, department leaders decided to upgrade their equipment to the latest devices by Utility. Clayton County PD was one of the first in the area to start using devices that function on a cloud-based system, and their immediate impressions were positive.
“Officers have raved about the resolution on the camera,” said Lt. Joshua Carr. “They’re able to go back and review it for their incident reports and things of that nature.”
Upgraded technology can make a cop’s daily tasks easier, but what the department wasn’t counting on was how Utility’s ease of use would assist in greater efficiency and police transparency.
TAKING THE GUESSWORK OUT OF RECORDING
Many people forget to capture photos during a family vacation, so it’s not surprising that law enforcement officers aren’t always thinking about hitting record on their BWC during a call. Officers need to remain engaged with what’s going on around them, although it can be frustrating to realize after the fact that an incident wasn’t captured on video.
The body-worn cameras by Utility feature a range of automation that can trigger during certain actions, relieving officers of having to manually press a button. Clayton County PD can activate both their body-worn cameras and in-car cameras remotely, says Carr, and the department is also working toward integrating a holster trigger into their system.
However, remembering to press record isn’t the only obstacle that officers can encounter in the field. Rarely will an officer be able to position themselves to get a clear, in-frame view of an incident for the duration of a call. In some instances, simply ensuring the BWC stays attached to an officer is difficult enough. Utility solved this problem with a unique attachment mechanism.
“With Utility, the body-worn camera sits in a holster and actually sits behind the clothing, so it has less chance of being knocked out of the clothing or knocked out of frame,” said Carr.
Each BWC also features livestreaming capability so surrounding officers can provide backup as needed. If an officer goes prone for an elongated period, the camera will send out an alert so others can access the livestream and assess the situation. These features provide Clayton County PD with increased situational awareness, along with traditional audio and video capabilities.
ADDING EFFICIENCY TO INVESTIGATIONS
Ensuring they could capture an incident on camera was only half the battle for Clayton County PD, as it’s equally important to use video information as it is to record it. Many officers will review footage before writing an incident report to make sure they document a situation accurately. However, the data collected by the BWCs has helped in another way.
“It has changed the way that we start our investigations,” said Carr. “If we have a citizen that comes into our department and wants to make an officer complaint, the internal affairs investigator can ask a couple of questions and review the information from the body camera with the citizen. This saves us from having to call an officer on his off time to come in and complete an interview.”
This process has significantly decreased the number of hours that the internal affairs officers have had to spend investigating, he adds. The use of BWCs has acted as a force multiplier, allowing Clayton County PD the opportunity to allocate officers to other areas of the department as needed.
SUPPORTING TRANSPARENCY FOR ALL
Beyond adding efficiency to the department’s investigative process, capturing an incident on video offers an even greater benefit.
“It supports what we’re telling citizens,” said Carr. “It supports that transparency that we want to have with our community, so they know and trust us.”
In an age where mistrust of law enforcement is high, the ability to promptly share video footage with communities is a huge step forward toward increased transparency. The body-worn cameras by Utility, coupled with Utility’s evidence management platform, allow for quick video processing, positioning Clayton County officers to share BWC footage in a matter of minutes.
“There has been an increase in the number of open records requests and demands for body camera footage,” said Carr. “I believe that our citizens appreciate that we have it more than not.”
Visit Utility, Inc. for more information.