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How Body Cameras Will Change Policing


Last year the Dallas Police Department signed a $3.7 million contract with a technology company called Axon to purchase cloud storage for video shot on police body cameras. Today on Think, Krys Boyd spoke with journalist Karen Weise about how Axon and body cameras will affect how police officers do their jobs. Her cover story, “Can CopCams Make Better Cops?” appears in a recent issue of Bloomberg Business Week magazine. 

The KERA Interview

Karen Weise on

… how Axon catalogs and stores the footage:  

“The real money is in these recurring storage fees for what they call, which is their cloud system for storing all of this footage. It’s sort of like how all of our photos these days are on some cloud system, but theirs has to follow certain protocols and security levels because this is footage that’s going to be used in theory in many cases in the court of law … They have a database of footage now in the cloud that they say is larger than Netflix’s streaming database.”      

… how officers feel about body cameras:    

“We think of this camera as an accountability tool against cops behaving badly, and there is a component in which this will start capturing really high profile incidents. But the vast majority of this footage is going to be of regular policing, that’s going to be used in regular court cases. And there’s a question of particularly when you’re looking at how things are in evidence and how an officer behaved in a particular situation, if the camera can see more than the officer can. Some officers feel like that’s not fair and that it will promote kind of hindsight is 20-20 sort of reviews. 'Oh, obviously he didn’t have a gun,' when to the officer in low light that wasn’t obvious, perhaps.”  

… who has access to the footage:   

“The officers cannot get into the camera, and they can’t delete the footage themselves. Typically who has access to the footage depends on the policy each department writes. Most departments don’t give officers that control. That typically falls to supervisors or specific teams that manage the body camera programs. But if an officer doesn’t tag footage, it will automatically delete at some point”

… ways the technology will be used in the future:  

“It’s not crazy to think that at some point there might be some more advanced way to query all this data, some kind of big data approach to this. Taser says that they’re working, for example, on facial recognition software that would overlay on top of the footage that they have. This is very controversial for civil liberty reasons, but there are also ways in which officers say this could be very helpful for police work.”