View from the Top

Body-worn cameras for law enforcement: A really big deal and really, really Big Data

Table of Contents:

Author Edmond Vea outlines some of the capabilities and technical challenges associated with use of body-worn cameras by law-enforcement officers, which has been the focus of considerable funding and political attention during the past year. Vea also introduces a survey to gather input from readers about body-worn cameras, the results of which he will unveil during IWCE 2015 in March.

With as much as $75 million potentially available from the Department of Justice in matching grants in the future and Philadelphia considering the possible acquisition of 3,500 units, there is a lot riding on the results of these pilot projects. 

Such initiatives bring new meaning to Big Data. If the use of body cameras become widespread, the amount of video recorded by departments around the country will be astronomical.  As reported in IWCE’s Urgent Communications, there are civil-liberties and freedom-of-information (sunshine) laws in some states that might present real problems.

Meanwhile, from a technical perspective, how would so much data be collected, handled, time-stamped, stored (or destroyed) and recovered? True, basic policies, methodologies, and technologies exist today for handling in-car video; but the scale with body cameras changes everything. In many departments in-car video is collected only when responding to an emergency. Will that be the case with body cameras? And, even if only limited images are collected, there will be significantly more officers collecting video for longer periods of time, which promises to add significantly to the storage issue. 

From a policy perspective, there will be those with Orwellian concerns. With the deployment of broadband and FirstNet, it will not be long before the suggestion is made that video and audio be made available for live streaming. The United Kingdom, perhaps the undisputed realm of video surveillance, continues to struggle with defining the proper use of so much data. In October, the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office warned companies that the haphazard use of surveillance equipment could be breaching the U.K.’s Data Protection Act 2008 “if they are just being used to record innocent members of the public without good reason.”

It promises to be an ongoing debate for the forseeable future. With this in mind, I have teamed with IWCE’s Urgent Communications to conduct a survey about the technical issues associated with body cameras. We are asking our audience—particularly those of you who are public-safety professionals or serve as administrators to first responders—to share your thoughts about the hot topic by participating in this survey.

The goal is to collect information to help us all better understand the current opinions and trends regarding this timely topic. Assuming we receive a sufficient number of responses, the findings will be made available at IWCE 2015 this March in Las Vegas and in a follow-up article to be published on the IWCE’s Urgent Communications website.

In addition to responding to the survey, if you would like us to contact you directly to talk more about your opinions in greater detail or, if you have questions regarding body cameras that you think need to be addressed, just let us know. We will set up a call to discuss.

Edmond ‘Ed’ Vea is a consultant to government and industry, focusing on mission-critical networks. Vea has more than 20 years experience designing, building, testing, optimizing and operating wireless communications systems using technologies such as GSM, CDMA, P25, TETRA, 802.11, 802,16, 2G, 3G, and 4G LTE.  

Discuss this Blog Entry 2

Bill Bouwhuis (not verified)
on Feb 4, 2015

It is the public who should be wearing the body cams. I guess after 50 years it was my turn to have police mistreat me on three separate occasions. We have the some of the highest paid police forces in North America here in Ontario. That does not seem to halt the steady stream of police misconduct reports. It is indeed a sad commentary that at my age (68), I have come to see the police as the enemy, and I am not alone. Police budgets are skyrocketing with a corresponding erosion of personal freedoms. Body cameras just add to the noise.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Feb 9, 2015

I agree fully, and my step-dad was a law enforcement officer, a DEA agent, problem with the cams- they are in police hands, guess what, they are EDITING them to improve and create a case for court, I know because I am fighting a case right now, they edited my dashcam recording, 28 blacked out spots(missing spots) removing threats and violations, misconduct by the officer, also a couple of only audio missing spots, the fox is guarding the hen house, and this way they only let out what they want, they refuse to release the GPS data for my case, which would prove perjury and falsifying a report, they say there is no GPS data yet the video displays it working perfectly, yes the public needs to protect themselves as there are criminals in law enforcement, this isn't Mayberry RFD anymore. Oh and if anyone out there can recommend an expert for video editing or perhaps a law enforcement officer who truly believes in justice and can help to stop this, please leave a comment.

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