Police body cameras are a fairly recent market niche, therefore, they are constantly evolving, which makes its users more demanding with each passing day. Keeping up with the needs of this new audience isn’t easy, and manufacturers have to make executive decisions when deciding which features to add or remove. In this article, we are going to tackle all the features a police body camera should and could have.
- Size and Weight
- Mounting on the Body
- Audio, Visual, and Vibration Alerts
- Video Resolution and Formats
- Night Vision and Low Light Capability
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Capability
- LCD screen
- Car Mode
- Artificial Intelligence
- External Cameras
- Integration With a Digital Evidence Management Software (DEMS)
Size and Weight
Police officers‘ uniforms are loaded with extra pounds of equipment, making them heavy and giving officers a big disadvantage in crucial situations. Having a police body camera that’s small and lightweight is imperative. It has to blend in with the uniform and be imperceptible, making sure the officer is always comfortable and ready when duty calls. That creates a challenge for manufacturers because, the smaller a body camera is, the fewer features it has. All the features offered by a body camera have to be meticulously studied and analyzed to make sure they are absolutely necessary because every little extra component adds extra weight to the body camera and cost to the manufacturer.
Having too many buttons on a police body camera is a common mistake made by many manufacturers. Police body cameras should be as easy to use as possible, and that means having just a few buttons or switches for the important features and making sure those are easily accessible and identifiable for when the officer is under a stressful situation. When their lives are on the line, the last thing they’ll think about is to look for the button to turn on their body cameras.
Mounting on the Body
Most police body cameras manufacturers don’t take into consideration that officers have different statures and body types, and that there are several different types of uniforms where their body cameras will be mounted onto. It’s important for a body camera to have optional accessories that allow them to be mounted pretty much anywhere, giving officers more options while also making sure the body camera is pointing the right direction.
Although every police body worn camera has to go through a rigorous 6-foot drop test in order to be sold to law enforcement agencies, they are unintentionally put to the test on a daily basis by police officers, and we can’t blame them. They go through a lot while risking their lives out in the field and can’t always take care of their body cameras as they should. Whether it’s getting them knocked off, dropping or hitting them, police body cameras go through a lot more than people realize. Purchasing more affordable brands might seem like a good idea at first, but you get what you pay for. They are made with cheap material and components, which means they won’t last as long and will have to be replaced more often.
Having a high-quality lens is vital to assure superior video quality. Every little detail, such as glass, camera angle, aperture, and chip makes a difference. Having a 120-degree camera angle is ideal because that’s the highest angle before it starts to warp, and warped footage isn’t accepted by some law enforcement agencies.
Having a long-lasting battery is, perhaps, the biggest challenge body camera manufacturers face when trying to develop a small, lightweight camera. The battery industry hasn’t been able to keep up with the latest technology boom, which means you can’t have a small body camera with great battery life. The only way to go around that, if you don’t want to settle for one of those big, clunky cameras, is by having external battery packs. Sure, you’ll have an extra cable to plug in, but at least your body camera is guaranteed to have battery when you need it the most.
Law enforcement grade body cameras are required to have internal, tamper-proof memory. Whether it’s using non-removable SD cards or internal memories, manufacturers have to assure files within those body cameras can only be accessed by authorized personnel.
Audio, Visual, and Vibration Alerts
Officers are faced with stressful situations daily. Status alerts are important to an officer and should quickly give him the information he needs without distracting him from his focus. It’s important that police body cameras have a configurable audio, visual, and vibration alerts to give a police officer real-time status on recording, buffering, and battery life status.
Video Resolution and Formats
Police body cameras have come a long way from grainy video footage of first generation cameras. Today’s video resolution technology can provide up to 4K quality. But is that necessary? An officer records an average of 3 hours per day. Multiply that with a medium size police department with 100 sworn officers and you’ll soon have a storage issue. We recommend setting video resolution at a minimum of 720p and a maximum of 1080p. The video resolution of a police body camera should never be set below 720p because grainy video could mean the difference between life and death in the career of an officer. The video needs to be clear enough to see details that can clear a good officer’s name or convict a bad one.
Night Vision and Low Light Capability
Having a police body camera that’s able to record in low light situations is mandatory for departments that want clear video and photo assets of every shift. That feature is of extreme importance because it makes sure the body camera always captures every detail of every room. Video footage taken with night vision might show even more than the officer was able to see, helping with any unseen evidence or suspect.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Capability
Wires will soon become a thing of the past, and it couldn’t be any different with the police body camera industry. Having a body camera that’s able to wirelessly upload files, whether it’s via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, saves a lot of time and resources for police departments. It also creates new possibilities for wireless connections, such as external cameras and synchronizing with other devices.
When your life is on the line, things get blurry and memories get distorted. It’s hard for an officer to remember every single detail of every situation. A police body camera with built-in GPS will record step by step of every video and photo files, not letting any detail be forgotten. When watching a video file with an appropriate Digital Evidence Management Software, some cameras will even display a dot on a map showing the real-time location of the officer when that video was being recorded.
Having an LCD screen on a police body camera is a feature loved by many officers. It opens up a world of possibilities, such as instant playback, favoriting files and changing settings while out in the field, and many more. But most officers and body camera manufacturers don’t think it’s a necessary feature. Not having a screen makes the body camera more affordable and easier to use, making sure officers focus only on what’s important while on duty.
Having a police body camera with built-in car mode is one more way to add versatility to it. Basically, it turns a body camera into a dash camera with the click of a button. Optional car mounts are often offered by manufacturers whose cameras include such feature, making it a great alternative for departments on a low budget.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
As of right now, June 2018, no police body cameras in the market are integrated with Artificial Intelligence (AI), although some of the big names have already announced they are working on it. Police body cameras with built-in AI technology are going to be revolutionary. Officers will be able to identify suspects through AI facial recognition, as well as pull up information about license plates and even objects without any effort. Behavior recognition will also be available, making it easier for cops to identify threats and prevent crimes.
A regular complaint from police officers about body cameras is that, once they draw their guns, it blocks the view of the camera. Keeping that in mind, some police body camera manufacturers came up with different options to solve that issue. The most popular alternative is having external Point-Of-View (POV) cameras that can be clipped onto their glasses, hat, or shirt collar. Not only it solves the issue but it also records exactly what the officer is looking at, and not where his body is facing.
Integration With an Evidence Management Software (DEMS)
Few manufacturers offer a complete camera solution, and that means a body camera, an in-car camera, and a Digital Evidence Management Software (DEMS). Having a DEMS could potentially save departments thousands of dollars every year, not to mention the fact that it makes it easier for officers to find, tag, classify, and encrypt files, as well as crop and redact videos, and much more.