Body cameras are becoming increasingly common in police and security forces. The debate about their efficacy in police efficiency and accountability, as well as public trust, is raging on more than ever before. As a result, police departments on state and city levels are making body-worn cameras compulsory for uniformed officers.
Regardless of the laws relating to body cameras, the quality of the camera is very important. It needs to be reliable and durable because compared to the leisurely use of such cameras, police officers use them on the job at all times.
Whether you’re trying to meet the requirements set by your department or choosing to wear the camera for personal protection, choosing the best body camera is the answer. This guide will make it easy to choose from an ever-growing variety of these gadgets.
Body cameras or body-worn cameras (BWC) are small, portable cameras that you attach to your clothing to record interaction with people and the surroundings. The cameras may not only record video but also audio.
The common purpose of using body cameras in law enforcement is to increase transparency. It helps provide solid proof of the encounters and interactions police officers may have with citizens and other law enforcement officers.
The idea is to deter unprofessional or illegal behavior because, after all, cops are humans too and, therefore, fallible. The footage may also be used for training purposes.
Many states have passed legislation making it mandatory for police officers to wear body cameras when on the job. Such states include New York, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Body-worn cameras aren’t different from your regular cameras in that they record footage. However, since they are to be worn on the body, their design is markedly different from regular photography cameras or even webcams.
These cameras are equipped with chargeable batteries that power the camera. On-board memory records and saves the footage. Additional accessories like clips are used to attach the camera to the clothing.
As these cameras are recording the interaction, they typically have a wide-angle view field to capture a larger area. Some of the body camera gadgets also have a built-in screen to view the footage.
The camera turns on a button and keeps recording and saving the footage. Unlike photography or mobile cameras, these do not have advanced camera features like zoom in/out, focus, brightness levels, etc. That said, newer body cameras like the Taser Axon body camera have some advanced features like screens, push-to-record, playback, etc.
The recordings are transferred through a dock, typically a USB port. Some have microSD cards that can be read through a small USB device.
If you’re a cop and deliberating whether you should wear a body cam on the field (if it’s not mandatory), here are the benefits it offers:
Body cameras can help make law enforcement more transparent. The interactions recorded can be presented exactly as they occurred, avoiding speculation and doubt.
Furthermore, it can help make police officers or really any kind of law enforcement individual more accountable for their actions. Once they know their words and actions are being recorded, they are more likely to abide by police rules for handling calls and interactions with suspects, as well as the general public.
This transparency and accountability can help improve policing.
Body-worn cameras in the police force can establish more trust in the public. When they see the officers are wearing body cameras on duty, they know that their behavior and performance on the job are being monitored.
It’s just a psychological effect the presence of the camera has on possible suspects and ordinary citizens.
Wearing these cameras can also help police officers, especially new recruits, improve their performance on the field. With their interactions on the film, their supervisors can guide them about mistakes to avoid and standard procedures to follow.
This allows the training to extend beyond the confines of a police academy, where things might not be as challenging or spontaneous as in the real world.
The footage can also be used as evidence against criminals. Oftentimes, police checks and arrests can get complicated. It’s easy to miss out on details in those moments.
Thankfully, body cameras can have all the interaction with the criminal on file. It can also help prosecute them for resisting arrest if they do so. This can also come in handy if you, as a police officer, are falsely accused of behaving rashly or unprofessionally.
Whether you’re a police officer buying a body-worn camera for yourself or a department head deciding on the model for your workforce, there are certain things to keep in mind.
This pretty much applies to any kind of camera you buy: the resolution or video quality should be high enough to make the footage as detailed as possible.
A poor, blurry video would leave out important details and may not even show faces accurately. That simply beats the purpose of having to wear the camera in the first place.
As a benchmark, consider buying a body camera with at least 1080p resolution and 30 fps video recording. This quality is good enough to clearly show the officer’s surroundings even in low light conditions.
Nowadays, 4K cameras have also made their way into body cameras, so if your budget allows, you could go for those HD cameras like Panasonic body-worn cameras.
Not all body cams will have this technology, but it’s worth investing in. If you’re on duty at night time, having night vision can help record footage even in the darkest of conditions.
There aren’t street lights everywhere. Although your police car’s headlights can help make things more visible when you stop someone, it can’t beat the clarity Nightvision can offer.
Body cams run on rechargeable batteries. While the rechargeable function is convenient, the battery life on a full charge should be long enough. Ideally, the battery should last at least 24 hours on a full charge, but that’s rarely the case.
Nevertheless, it should at least be on for eight hours, as that’s commonly the period of a police person’s shifts. However, sometimes police officers have to work extra hours. You don’t want the battery to die on you while you’re at work.
The batteries in these cameras vary from 1000 mAh to 3000 mAh.
If you work long hours, perhaps the best option would be to buy a camera with two batteries. So when you run out of one, you can quickly replace it with the other fully charged battery. You can always purchase the second battery separately, too, if the camera doesn’t come with two.
The camera device on your body should be sturdy enough to resist impact. Police altercations can also get physical, and anything on your body, like a camera, can get impacted. A durable camera, which is securely attached to your uniform, will stay on even after impact.
The body-worn camera should ideally be waterproof, especially if you live in a wet climate. If it’s raining, the water may destroy a non-waterproof camera. It should at least be IP65 waterproof.
The camera should also be dust-resistant because it will be exposed to dust a lot.
Multiple connectivity options are good, but you don’t want something too complicated. One of two connectivity options is more than enough.
Commonly, body cams have USB ports for charging, as well as data transfers. Some may also have Bluetooth or Wifi. Just make sure the camera you buy has at least a USB port and cable.
Pay attention to how and how much of the footage the camera can store onboard. While there are advanced cameras that transfer footage via Wifi, in the police force, you want something simpler. So one with built-in memory or an SD card should be more than enough.
However, that does mean that the footage will have to be transferred to another computer frequently to make room for new.
Price is an important consideration, especially when considering body cameras for the entire police department. There are cheap options available on the market, but not all of them are good enough.
In the recent past, some police departments have used their budget for adding this equipment for their workforce, while some have eradicated this program to save money.
If you’re looking for a quality camera at a decent price, look for a Taser Axon body camera for sale.
Now that you understand why body cameras for police officers work and what to consider when buying one, it’s time to discuss some of the best brands and models in the market.
Make sure to check out the best body camera reviews online before buying one. Perhaps look for reviews from other cops or security officers to see how the cameras worked out for them.
It also matters which brand you choose because some are more popular and better than others. The best Canon body camera or Motorola body camera will do the job just right, giving you high video resolution and reliable battery life.
Motorola Solutions body camera variety is one of the best in the market right now. They are also very high-tech, providing advanced features. For instance, Motorola si 700 police body-worn camera can offer hi-resolution streaming over LTE and have built-in GPS.
Axon, which was formerly called Taser, is another leading company in body cameras. Like Motorola body-worn camera, Taser Axon Flex body-worn camera also offers long battery life (12 hours) and mobile connectivity. This camera is super sleek and small and gets attached with glasses, showing the view from the officer’s perspective.
Another great product from Axon is Axon Body 2 camera. The Taser Axon Body 2 camera directions include a 143 degrees view field. It’s a lightweight, single-unit body cam with HD video and wireless activation.
The Taser Axon body camera price is slightly higher than some of the body cams models on the market, but the technology and durability make it worth the price.
Wolfcom also produces an extensive range of body cameras for police officers. They also sell multi-camera packages for six, eight, and sixteen men teams. The kit includes cameras, software, LCD screen, clips, keyboard, etc.
Most modern, smart body cameras also come with their respective software that manages data transfer and storage.
For instance, Axon offers Axon Records, which is a dynamic tool for digital evidence management and reporting.
- Compliance is built into the system to ensure maximum reliability
- Axon evidence is connected to Axon records for quick reference
- Pulls in digital evidence from tasers, cameras, and citizens smartphones
- Can share with involved officers, prosecutors, and other relevant agencies
Axon Records is compatible with Windows as an operating system. However, the minimum operating is Windows Server from 2016 or Windows 8. The recommended operating system is Windows Server from 2019 or Windows 10.
Some cameras come with mobile apps to see and manage footage on the go. The Motorola Solution V300 body cam works with a SmartControl mobile app for Android.
- Stream live video
- Can come in handy for search operations and hostage situations
- Can review and tag videos
- Can change camera settings
- Adjust the field of view
- Change brightness and audio level
- Can activate body camera from smartphone
Other than these, you may be able to use third-party body cameras or evidence management software with your body camera. Make sure to check upload/download speeds and compatibility.
Most software tools are compatible with Windows 7, Windows 10, and macOS; however, we recommend that before purchasing your specific software, check if it is compatible with your type of operating system.
Not all police departments make body cameras necessary. However, with the current socio-political climate, many police departments, as well as private security companies, are adopting body camera technology.
It’s only a matter of time until these cameras become a norm nationwide. As discussed earlier, there are proven benefits to wearing a body cam on the job for law enforcement from both a social and legal point of view.
If your police department makes it a part of your uniform, you will be provided with one. However, you may be at the liberty of choosing one yourself, so long as it meets certain requirements set by the department.
It’s best to consult your own department and see what features are necessary for a body-worn camera. That should also come in handy when looking for the best police body camera.
While there’s more research going on the efficacy of these cameras, experts say that choosing something simpler but reliable is the way to go. Of course, this isn’t for leisure, so you don’t want something that overcomplicates things, especially in already complicated situations.
Finding the best body camera for police officers is not a difficult job if you know exactly what you want. A quality body camera would likely cost over a hundred bucks, but it will also last long.
In most cases, it’s the department’s responsibility to provide cops with the body cams. However, you can always proactively wear one on your uniform to better protect yourself and improve your performance on the field.
Go for something simple that turns on easily, has decent video resolution and audio quality, and, most importantly, is durable enough to withstand rough weather and outdoor conditions.