New Technology Could Automatically Start Body Cameras

July 20, 2017 05:35 AM

The company the Minneapolis Police Department gets its body cameras from, Axon, will soon release technology that would automatically turn them on when a gun is pulled from its holster.

It's expected to be available in just two months.


Relying on police officers to manually turn on their body cameras when they enter a heated situation has been one of the major complaints of body camera policy around the nation.

RELATED: Minnesota Shooting Shows Underuse of Police Body Cameras

"They hate being filmed by the public, why would they turn on their own camera," asked Dave Bicking of Communities United Against Police Brutality.

Body Camera Policy

Below are links to body camera policies at various departments in the state. 

None of the policies dictate that the cameras always be on, rather that they must be on in certain circumstances. As you can see, the policies are similar. 

A link to the Minnesota statute on body cameras can be found here. The law does not dictate body cam policies for departments. Further, the League of Minnesota Cities compiled a list of FAQs when the state law was added to the books in 2016.

Cities across the nation have struggled to balance the need to capture footage with protecting individuals' privacy and safeguarding against high storage costs for terabytes of recordings. The response has been narrow requirements for when an officer needs to flip on his or her camera.

Minneapolis launched a body camera pilot project in November of 2014.

Bicking said he unfortunately expected a situation like the shooting of Justine Damond in south Minneapolis Saturday night. Neither of the two officers in the car in the incident, in which one officer fired the fatal shots that killed the Australia native, had their body cameras turned on.

"This is very deliberate that officers are avoiding the accountability of having them turned on," Bicking said. "The policy is deliberately weak and the enforcement is absolutely nonexistent."

Minneapolis City Council member Andrew Johnson said the policy needs improvement.

"I have a lot of anger and frustration that these cameras weren't rolling," he said.

Johnson believes cameras that automatically turn on are a necessity.

"Whether you are skeptical of our police officers, or sympathetic to them, the more we can remove them from having to remember or make a conscious choice to turn on or off that camera, the better," he said.

The Axon technology relies on a sensor that is attached to the front of a gun holster. Once the gun is pulled out, all body cameras within 30 feet start rolling.

The cost isn't fully set, but the company said it would likely be about $120 a year per officer.

With roughly 600 Minneapolis police officers, that would be an additional $72,000 dollars a year in cost to the department.

"I want to see that technology rolled out immediately," Johnson said.

"If that technology exists why don't we have it? That's a good question for the police chief and I look forward to her answering that when she's back," Johnson said.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee' Harteau has been out of town on previously-scheduled time off, so she has not commented on the new technology.

The technology would still give the current 30-second pre-roll, meaning once the cameras turn on they capture the previous 30 seconds and keep rolling.


Jessica Miles

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