There is currently a lot of talk in the media about police body cameras and the issues around recording when they use lethal force. After some reading on the subject I realize the current systems have a few technical challenges. Chief among them, is the manual process of turning a camera on before firing a weapon–or saving after an event occurs. Systems that are always on, still use a rolling buffer that also requires a “hard save” command after an event that dumps the buffer into disk otherwise the video memory is automatically overwritten when the next rolling cycle ends.
After some thought, I have what I believe is a system with the most equality for both police and those they interact with in public. It is my opinion that police in general should be professional and respected, exactly like our U.S. armed services. With respect comes professional, unwavering duty. Such service can not be questioned, and should therefore be no less degraded when being filmed, for both the benefit of the officer as well as the public they serve.
Using the patrol cruiser as a local platform and hub, we can add components to upgrade existing vehicle cameras by adding: two cruiser-mounted, auto-follow cameras; a “VR’ 360 degree central camera; GPS enabled body mounted cameras; NFC; Bluetooth; WiFi; directional microphones and modern web services together can create a unique system that will provide the most information about critical details of the scene during each engagement with the public like never before.
Core unique features include:
- Total autonomous usage by officer, no buttons to push the system is always ready and working.
- Real-time, comprehensive situation awareness of the scene on and after arrival.
- Auto-save and back-up of data the moment any gunshot audio is received by the system no matter where the officers might be.
- Static dash cam is upgraded into two, articulating exterior-mounted HD cameras which will auto-follow each officer as they interact outside of the vehicle within line of sight.
- Comprehensive collection of location and time data along with accompanying video/audio/testimony data from many angles will allow new crime scene reconstruction, and digital data analysis to help predict threats that can lead to developing early warning systems as well as help find new solutions as Big Data has in other industries.
- A 360 degree camera system that will allow Virtual Reality preservation and playback of the crime scene environment.
- Intelligently auto-SMS other emergency services with feeds or calls for help by using sensor data to infer when screams/gunshots/fire or other environmental heuristics can determine changing conditions and threats on the ground that require auto-backup or other types of help for a comprehensive response.
- In today’s modern world of terrorism, any emergency response system that can help gather clues and reconstruct crime scenes will be invaluable in helping close cases faster to avoid larger loss of life.
Each officer’s body camera will be upgraded to a full mobile phone, allowing for many modern sensor data- including: GPS, accelerometer data as well as Bluetooth and Wifi, VPN connectivity. As soon as the body camera system recognizes it has left the vehicle (NFC/Bluetooth/Wifi), or an environment heuristic is sensed by the system, it will automatically begin recording video and audio with no action required by the officer.
Patrol cruisers will be outfitted with two HD cameras that will be mounted on the vehicle emergency light bar. This will allow for a rotating mount, such that, each officer can be automatically followed independently using NFC/Bluetooth/Wifi/GPS by a separate camera as they interact with the public when outside of their cruiser. The system will be able to switch cameras as needed as officers move around the vehicle in different directions, and varying distances. Using software and post-processing, the system will then be able to stitch the video back into a logical form for independent playback as a single camera following each officer without breaking continuity until beyond line of sight.
VR 360 degree video will also be captured by a single camera mounted at the center of the cruiser emergency light bar. This data will allow law enforcement officers the ability to step back into the scene using Virtual Reality which can not only preserve scene data for future investigations like never possible before, but also establish a baseline platform for future advancements in crime scene investigation, officer training, and overall public relations when trying to determine culpability and best practices.
As dash cameras have proven invaluable before, this independent, third-person view will allow for extra data to help protect each officer and the public alike without having to make compromises of where a limiting single-fixed, interior camera would otherwise be used.
The exact moment any gunshot is heard can be sensed by the system end-to-end and made to auto trigger all systems active, including live streams of video/audio to save out of buffer and onto disk. Another signal can also be sent to servers in the main office where they can begin a live, off-site back-up, saving all streaming video and sensor data from the scene for an official separate public copy.
Other patrol vehicles arriving on the scene can add to this data with their own video/audio providing different angles and preservation of scene data.
An optional improvement for even more officer level protection, could include having existing issued officer firearms outfitted with tiny electronics that can aid in capturing exactly when a discharge has occurred. This data can be captured by the body camera hardware the officer wears on his person and rely this along with audio processing from each sensor back to the patrol cruiser and on to the main office/servers. This data will be invaluable to accurately reconstruct events as they really happened, giving prosecutors and the public alike, new tools in increasingly dangerous times.
Microphone and video data from the patrol cruiser, can independently verify the officer’s personal data from his body camera, microphone and gun discharge sensor. Together with GPS, NFC and Bluetooth data, a complete comprehensive system can be created that can combine data from the patrol cruiser, environment and each officer to give a detailed picture of events as they unfold.
One limitation is line of sight. Data preceding many altercations that may happen out of sight of the patrol cruiser or body cameras sensors alike. These data are just as valuable in finding true culpability for all parties involved, and should not be undervalued. Having information about what preceded an off-camera event that a body cam could not capture can be just as important as the actual violent act recorded. Having articulating tracking, and state-of-the-art VR 360 degree cameras on the patrol cruiser will provide more situation awareness about events than we may have with standard fixed dash cams of today. More data to protect the officers and public alike, while providing a new class of platform for future comprehensive crime investigation tools.