back to article California cops don defensive headcams

A California police department is testing a high-tech defense against one of the most pernicious weapons used against them in recent years: the video camera. Ever since Rodney King was famously videotaped receiving what many saw as an over-the-top thrashing by Los Angeles lawmen back in 1991, video footage of alleged police …


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  1. Sooty

    not bad

    but it should be recording constantly, not just switched on to record what the police office wants recorded.

    The way it is, even if something is recorded, it can always be claimed that it wasn't.

  2. bertie bassett

    Think of the opportunities

    for cr4p tv shows - cops with cameras, cops on the beat, cops on patrol, worlds wackies police arrests and more

    Oh wait - bin dun...

    still would be nice (not) to see how equally stupid US crims are compared to our boys...

  3. The Evil One

    Don't worry about running out of disk space, better to record to much than too little.

    An obvious solution is to have continuous recording but to delete recorded data when space runs out unless the "start recording" button has been pressed. The start recording button would cause the recording to be flagged non-delete from a time 5 or ten minutes before the button was pushed until a time 5 to 10 minutes after the stop recording button is pushed. Failure to press the start recording button after an interaction with a criminal perpetrator, aka the public has started should be considered as suspicious.

    In fact with terrabyte sized hard drives being available today and petabyte size in a few years time I think the argument of server overload is a furphy. Perhaps the recorded images should be kept for at least 48 hours, button press or no button press and perhaps made available world wide on the internet so interested persons can monitor the behavior of police without having to await the arrival of a camera carrying observer. Or perhaps recording could be activate by such actions as turning on a siren, opening a card door or putting a hand to gun or taser.

  4. Eddy Ito

    Subject to FOI?

    The next question is, will the footage be archived and available to citizens who wish to police the police as well as those who want to file a complaint? I can see the cops saving reams of "harmless" data that can be used as evidence that cops are just and to defend against a bad claim but what about the potentially damaging evidence? Will that be saved or "misplaced" behind the blue wall as usual?

  5. Mike007 Bronze badge


    i fail to see how always on recording would cause a problem? surely they have no need to look at the vast majority of footage, only the footage from incidents - in which case they can just pull up the video using timestamps?

    and if they really must have some sort of additional marker for the beginning of an incident (to go with the logs from the station when they called in their arrival!) just have the button log the time it was pressed

    the only issue with continuous recording is storage, and let's face it storage is cheap... assume it takes 1GB per hour of footage (i doubt the camera quality is that good, they always use crap cameras for law enforcement) a 1TB drive per officer allows them to store the last 1000 hours worth of recordings, which should be long enough for most complaints to be received before the data is deleted (especially as it won't be in use whilst at the station, only whilst out on patrol)

  6. Dan Paul

    "Flip" Video Cam by any other name

    It has nothing to do with being employed in the CCTV business but it seems to me that a camera does NOT need to be connected to a computer to acquire data, "Axon Tactical" or otherwise. Otherwise IPOD's and other kid toys would be way too expensive.

    Hmmm, "Synapse Evidence Transfer Module" , wouldn't a simple USB cable be enough?

    Better yet, how about an always on 4G connection to that video server (with cool "Tactical paint job") that includes GPS location and time stamps so excessive donut stops and "Nooners" become a thing of the past.

    This thing looks like it has "Copshop Boondoggle" written all over it. For the cost of a kid's "flip" video toy, one could practically do the same thing except you would not get the the "Training Class Junket" conveniently located nearby some den of excess (read Vegas). (or the huge price).

    I trust that the video and/or audio cannot be altered without leaving a trace but it would be nice to have it turn on automatically when the audio picks up stereotypical catchphrases like "You lookin at me!" or "You'll nevah catch me alive coppa" or "I'm sorry, was I speeding?" or even better "I'm Charlie F#cking Sheen!"

    Grenade, obviously. I hope mine comes with Pickatinny Rail Mounts and Digital Camo.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    if they are innocent...

    ...then they have noting to fear if all the material they capture is archived forever.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Ironic or stupid?

      "I...the 'Anonymous coward' have nothing to hide?"

      Change the record.

      1. The BigYin


        Nothing to hide != No need for privacy

        Get a clue, chump.

  8. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD

    Did you know?

    By and large the police are just mostly regular blokes doing a tough job, not all of them are "on the take" or right bastards as they seem to be portrayed.

    After all, when you think about it, if anyone were to mug you, or beat you up, who do you think would be more likely to be doing it? The cops or some yobbo?

    It would seem to me that society today by and large expects too much and is by and large very uncivic minded, ill-disciplined, decadent, if almost evil. I don't see why this should be tolerated.

    If you get drunk/drugged up/disorderly and get tased/shot/wtfpwnt by a cop, I can only say you deserve it. Don't fucking do it.

    If having cameras makes them feel more comfortable, I don't see why we should bitch about it.

    I think there are legitimate concerns about the police out there alright but let's not exaggerate things out of proportion - remember these guys are just like you or I and they are doing a tough job that probably few people want to do. T

    hey could be better sure, we all could, but they are there, you are not.

    1. Graham Marsden

      "just mostly regular blokes"?

      Sure, unfortunately it only takes a few rotten apples to spoil the whole barrel and given that in the UK we have seen Police and PCSOs acting like Constable Savage and deciding that as they are on "the front line against terrorism" they can throw their weight about as much as they like and harass people for such heinous activities as being "too tall" when taking photographs.

      What's worse, however, is that whilst the rot is spreading at the bottom, the attitudes that cause it have come from the very top with the ACPO who aren't even answerable to the people who they work for, ie our elected representatives, yet they can still (and do) influence Government policy.

      Yes, they're doing a tough job, they knew that when they signed up, if they can't take it, they shouldn't have joined in the first place.

  9. Si 1


    I'd buy that for a dollar!

    1. tim 4
      Black Helicopters

      coming to you live from network 23...

      ....are you getting this? hey? am i on?

  10. Anonymous Coward

    There's no such thing as useless video

    The so-called "Useless" video would be video showing that no crime was seen being committed and that the officers doing the recording weren't doing anything wrong. It could be automatically archived away at the end of the day, shoved to an offline storage facility after a year or so and deleted totally after a few years.

    Picture the scene- you're police officer 0451. Someone comes into your station and says "Officer 0451 assaulted me last night". They're covered in bruises that look truncheon-y and you were on duty two blocks away- in fact after a closer look you realise you pulled them over for speeding last night.

    But you're innocent. How would you go about proving it? The guy's making a formal complaint and wants to press charges, he's got 2 of his friends backing him up and a reporter happened to be walking by so it'll be in the newspapers soon.

    With no video, or even worse video only of the initial speeding stop, you'd be crucified in the papers.

    With always-on video, you'd be able to say "I didn't do it- check my video log." and immediately have a reliable defence with a recorded chain of custody (you -> station video server, with logs to show no tampering). You could even cross-reference various things with other CCTV footage (say, your police car driving past a camera or a car with a visible license plate being caught running a red light) to prove you're not lying.

    If you're not innocent, you could show that you had good cause for acting the way you did.

    If you're not innocent and you're just a violent git, you get caught.

  11. Youngdog

    'Always on' or don't bother

    Ok sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD, lets assume that a good majority of PCs are doing a tough job as best they can and would never knowingly use their powers unfairly or inappropriately when dealing with the public. So what?

    The problem of law enforcement in society is not the law abiding majority but rather the small minority who choose to behave otherwise – either side of the thin blue line! In a just society those who enforce the law must uphold (and be seen to uphold) the same moral standards as those they police. This technology, if used by all public-facing officers of the law all the time, would ensure that in a stroke – assuming, of course, that access to the recorded material was made available to defendants and the IPCC!

    And think of the flip side – how much easier would it be to prove instances of resisting arrest or dismiss claims made by defendants that correct arrest procedures were not followed if it was all there on film? Captured instances of our brave Bobbies and Bobbettes going above and beyond the call of duty and putting their lives on the line could also be used to promote the image of the police to the public or used in recruitment drives.

    You might think that this it is unfair to put the police under that much scrutiny when they perform such a thankless task but a criminal conviction can have a massive impact on someone’s life. They may lose their job, their house, their family and their freedom. Power like that must be kept in check and if the police have complete faith in their methods then they have nothing to fear.

    Of course there is a school of thought that says that thanks to Maggie T, rampant commercialism and corporate greed there has been a full on Daily Mail style collapse of civilisation and that the law-abiding majority has been replaced with a population of people all looking after their own self interests game-theory style and are in effect all criminals who haven’t been caught yet. In which case there is no reason why the average copper is above this and this technology is more pertinent than ever.

  12. Allan George Dyer
    Big Brother

    Doesn't it just look like...

    the marketing material shows a head cross-section, with the camera mounted in an eye-socket, and a convenient probe linked to the cochlea for Total Mind Control(TM)?

    Have it recording continuously, but with a multi-level tagging:

    1. Officer turns on siren, takes out gun: "For immediate public broadcast"

    2. Any other time: "The boring bits"

    3. Officer opens flies: "Restricted"

    Constable Savage, of course, would take very long toilet breaks.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems to me

    that this would be good in just about every job. Anyone driving out and about for a living? You can check they're going where they're supposed to and not having unauthorised breaks. Doctors - evidence against false allegations of improper behaviour. Call centre people? You can check that they're not just saying, "Yep, doing that now" and reading the paper until you hang up. IT people - gasp in horrified surprise as they look at the call queue, see nothing that interests them/they feel will make them look good to the manager and decide to read The Reg instead. Or make a coffee. Or *anything* else. Well, obviously that wouldn't surprise anyone.

    1. Youngdog
      Thumb Up


      The only problem with everyone having one (don't forget the unemployed as well - just to make sure they aren't earning money for odd jobs on the side or walking around when claiming disability allowance) is this would also include the people who's job it is to analyse the footage. The sheer manpower required to go through the images produced would ensure that whichever agency is given the task would soon be the largest single employer in the UK and due to its recursive nature it wouldn't be long before most of the footage is of people watching footage of people watching footage etc.

      Obviously an IT solution would be required to analyse the data (GoogleCrime? MS Offence? Hee hee) - or how about only activating a random 10 percent of the cameras each day? A great deterrent as you would not know what day you would be 'Going Live' and allowing yourself to get caught.

      Until these issues are addressed I say we start with a pilot group of about 650 people from a demographic who have a special interest in progressive ways to improve society (our elected representatives in parliament perhaps?) and we'll see how it pans out.

  14. Jess

    Haven't ...

    ... Torchwood had those already for ages?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Turn the tables

    In normal escalation the civilians will now also have to don their video caps when talking to the police, now that may possibly work in the states, but in Britain they would likely then arrest you on terrorist charges. Changing the law to allow cops to prevent the public from filming them is right up there in the list of anti-democratic laws.

  16. Joe Harrison

    Whoops only filmed the carpet, sorreee

    Is it just me... that headband doesn't look too secure. It might easily slip off, you know, during a struggle with a violent drug-crazed criminal who needed to be restrained?

  17. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    May I please have one...

    ...for my Senator?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Insurance cams

    Hasn't this problem already been solved by the insurance companies sticking camera's on cars?

    The camera has a small buffer that holds the last 30 minutes footage. When the button is activated, it dumps both the buffer and the live feed to disk. It could also be designed to stop recording only 30 minutes after the button is pressed again. This way you always get context, but not the whole day.

    This doesn't solve the problem of the officer who just decides not to press the button at all, but I guess it could be set to be auto triggered by the removal of a truncheon, gun, or taser. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could monitor for increased heart rates, or adrenalin surges.

  19. Thomas 18
    Thumb Up

    Always on AND a button

    How about you always record and then use the button for markup. So you have a bunch of time codes saying "approaching taxpayer" and "done with taxpayer" but you have all the rest of the footage too in-case the defense wants to review outside of what the cop thinks is relevant.

  20. Sureo

    Oh what excitement...

    If the cameras were live streamed to the internet. You could follow your favorite officer on his beat, and catch all the action as it unfolds.

    BTW Taser is known for its stun guns, I bet they`re working on a `stun camera` too.

  21. John Ridley 1

    New law required

    I'd like to see a law enacted (I'm in the US) - any person in a public place is allowed to video record anything they like. It should be illegal for the police to even ask you to stop recording, whether they're talking to you or you're just a bystander. It REALLY bothers me when I see video of police forcing people to stop taping when there's something going on. You know, guys, that totally smacks of "we want to do something illegal now, and we don't want any record of it."

  22. kain preacher

    @John Ridley 1

    actually the cops can't make you stop. But most people are not willing to get their ass beat to prove apoint . Most states have a limit. I know in California as long as you are 1000 feet away and not saying any thing they are not suppose to touch you.

    Ps it was 500 feet but when the black panthers started watching the cops the moved it to 10000

    1. Hud Dunlap

      Three football fields away?

      Better to have a good camera to see anything. Sounds like California made something illegal when it shouldn't have been. The big issue is groups like the Black Panthers interfering in the guise of " What's going on"?

  23. John Tserkezis

    Too bad coppers don't want cameras.

    Funny. There seems to be a bit of an issue with the camera-equipped tasers here in Australia. While the Taser part appears to work every time (even after the first, then second, then third... enough to get the perp into hospital then die of heart failure...), the camera on the other hand appears to almost invariably be either faulty, or not activated for whatever reason by the time the incident gets to the media.

    It's ok for the plods to *want* the camera, but they have to actually *use* it too. Even during the bits they might not want it work. Not that there's anything wrong with the Taser camera equipment, no-one will ever admit it's "user error" though....

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Evidunce of stupid design

    The first success story touted by these guys clearly showed that the device should be on the other ear. The video in question was of a blank wall and showed nothing. And they touted it as a success.

    Next issue is the remote storage for vast quantities of useless video. They're doing this primarily to enable charging an expensive monthly fee of something over US$100 per month, per officer. If they'd used local storage, then it would be better, faster and cheaper. And wouldn't require a monthly fee. Storage of video isn't THAT expensive that you need to pay a large fortune (ongoing, forever) to the less expensive approaches.

    This one conceptual design decision should be the end of the discussion for most departments.

    The first order of business for any lawsuit would be to subpoena ALL videos in any way related to that officer. It's a perfectly reasonable request, and would only cost the department about "a trillion dollars" (not really) in Internet access fees.

    Clearly the system is poorly conceived, over-priced, and provides more benefit to the corporation pushing it than the jurisdiction paying for the conceptual design flaws.

    Not to mention that even a looming 200-man IMAX film crew from NHK and the Discovery Channel wouldn't always stop police misbehavior. They (some of them, sometimes) still get overly-excited and engage in behavior that simply will not look good in HD. Look at all the dash cam videos that have been of more benefit to the plaintiff than the officer.

    It's Evidunce.

  25. lglethal Silver badge

    Ignoring all the privacy, monitoring implications...

    i just have to ask why the hell does it have an earpiece? I thought it was just a camera...

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