Clinton County Sheriff Officers Now Wearing Body Cams That Start Recording Automatically

The next time you see Clinton County Sheriff’s officers, make sure to smile, because they may be wearing a small camera on their uniforms. The Clinton County Sheriff’s Department purchased “body-worn video systems” called FirstVu HDs from Kansas City-based manufacturer Digital Ally, Inc. The systems include a small but tough 1-inch camera and 2.5” x 4” DVR that can be worn in a variety of locations.

Body cameras have garnered a great deal of attention lately because of several high profile officer-involved shootings in cities across the US, especially Ferguson, MO, who is now using Digital Ally’s FirstVu HD, as well. Although the general public has largely responded positively to the cameras because they provide an unbiased view of potentially controversial incidents, law enforcement agencies benefit even more from their use.

Stanton Ross, CEO of Digital Ally, tells us that “everyone behaves better when they’re being recorded. This benefits the relationship between the sheriff’s department and the community, improves officer safety and has even been shown to drastically reduce the frequency of use-of-force incidents.”

A majority of cases also go uncontested, and complaints against officers are dropped, as soon as it becomes known that the incident was recorded on video. This saves the department money and lets the officers spend more time patrolling the community instead of in court.

Digital Ally‘s body cams offer some distinct benefits not available from other camera manufacturers. The FirstVu HD features a wider field of view, lower light recording capability, and archived video recordings are higher in quality. The body cams also prevent unauthorized access to, or tampering with, the recordings, and access to the video evidence is logged.

Many other body cameras on the market are made overseas and use batteries that cannot be removed, requiring the entire body cam to be sent back to the manufacturer to be replaced when the batteries die, which takes it out of circulation for department use. The FirstVu HD features a user-replaceable, rechargeable battery that can last up to 2.5 days while powered on.

It also offers a longer “pre-event recording” time, which allows the camera to save up to 60 seconds of video footage before the officer presses the record button. This is especially important when events require any use of force, because it allows the officer to focus on his or her safety first while still being able to go back and capture crucial recorded documentation of the incident once there is no longer any danger to the officer, the suspect or the public.

The department is also using Digital Ally dash cams in its patrol cars. Although body-worn video systems can go everywhere the officer does, recording events from the officer’s perspective, in-car video systems provide a more neutral view that includes the actions of both the officers and civilians and does not miss anything when officers turn away or after a suspect is placed in the back seat of the patrol car. The dash cam's fixed view also shows movement more clearly, which is particularly valuable during sobriety tests. Ross says, “Recording with both in-car and body-worn video systems provides the most complete perspective and insight into an incident.”

Along with the dash cams, the Sheriff's Department is also equipping its vehicles with Digital Ally’s VuLink, which is the only system that enables body cameras to start recording automatically and allows the department’s in-car video systems to be automatically or manually activated simultaneously with the body cameras. For example, when a vehicle’s emergency lights are turned on, the body camera will automatically begin recording simultaneously with the vehicle’s video system, thereby removing any distraction to the officer or the chance that the officer may forget to activate a recording manually. If the officer is away from the vehicle when an incident occurs, VuLink will also allow him or her to remotely start recordings on both systems manually. The recordings can later be linked together to provide a seamless record of the same incident from different perspectives using the back office software, which manages and authenticates the evidence.

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