Commitment to Professionalism and the Latest Technology
Today’s policing is significantly different than policing just five years ago. The single greatest impact on policing is the same for all kinds of professions - developing technology. Systems designed to improve capabilities, visibility, communication, and evidence gathering make the work of police officers safer, more effective, and transparent. The first fleet cameras developed for law enforcement (in-car cameras)
used the original VHS tape recording systems. The bulky system and storage quickly buried departments with recordings. The advancement to digital recordings was a game changer for fleet cameras and led the way for smaller, body worn cameras (BWCs).
Davidson Police Officers started wearing Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) in the fall of 2014. In 2016, the department switched to Axon BWCs as the original cameras were considered outdated. The battery life, storage, and communication capabilities are tremendously better than those first on the market. The BWCs worn by officers still require that the officers turn them on to capture an event, but even that has changed.
The Davidson Police Department’s aging fleet cameras were well beyond their shelf life and expensive to replace. Earlier in 2019, the fleet systems were replaced with Axon fleet cameras. Now the department has one digital recording system for cameras in the patrol vehicles and those worn by officers. The activation of a fleet camera can be done by an officer at any time and is also automatically activated by the use of the patrol vehicle emergency lights. Since the camera is continually recording, the first 30 seconds of a recording is actually "a capture" of what happened 30 seconds prior to being activated by the officer or light system. Now that the fleet cameras and BWCs are in one system, the activation of one camera at a scene activates all cameras on the scene. This is regardless if they are cameras in a vehicle or on the officer’s uniform.
Final installation of the required uploading system and conversion to local control of our digital recording is ongoing with our IT partner Nucentric. Operation of the system is expected to be complete by the fall of 2019. The cameras upload digital recordings into the cloud for storage by Axon. The original recordings cannot be altered or deleted. Recordings of interactions with officers are randomly reviewed quarterly by supervisors, and deficiencies, if any, are noted and addressed with the officer through training and/or review of policy if needed.
Police Recording Incidents
Officers must activate their BWCs during any field contact. That includes:
- Calls involving emotionally or mentally disturbed subjects
- Calls where the offense involves weapons or violence
- Disturbances or disorders
- Suspicious vehicles or persons
- Traffic stops
- Voluntary contacts of an investigative nature
- Any situation in which an officer feels there is value in making a digital record of a contact, event, or evidence
Public Record Policies
North Carolina statute G.S. 132-1.4A directs the manner and ability for the head of the law enforcement agency regarding the release of recordings protecting the confidentiality of the public, the employer, and the employee as well as protecting evidence gathered as a result of a criminal investigation. Please refer to the STATUTE for details.
Benefits of Body-Worn Cameras
Police recordings are beneficial to the public, department, and its officers. Police officer performance can be reviewed and enhanced by their supervisor. The recordings provide excellent training records for new officers. The recordings also help refresh an officer’s recollection of events and validates the testimony of officers at trial.