As 2014 came to a close Fullerton Police Department issued body cameras to each patrol officer.
By the beginning of February this year all supervisors and detectives had also been equipped and trained on the usage and uploading procedure for the Taser Axon body camera.
The process has been underway for the last two and a half years according to Sergeant Kathryn Hamel, Fullerton Police Department’s Public Information Officer.
“We had a request for proposal go out, and we tested three different companies. Ultimately we decided to go with the Taser Axon body camera,” Hamel said.
One of the reasons the Taser model was chosen was the upgrade policy the company offered Fullerton.
“We were able to negotiate into the RFP [Request For Proposal] that we would spend as set amount of money, and at three years and at five years we would get brand new cameras,” Hamel said. “As technology evolves, also the software is going to evolve as well as the unit themselves.”
The Fullerton Police Department spent $650,354 for a five year contract in which Taser would provide 160 body cameras along with training, support and upgrades. According to Taser’s website, each camera retails for $399 which puts the bulk of the funds, a little more than 85 percent, into support and upgrades.
The cameras are constantly buffering, with audio always on. The officer has discretion on when to have the video portion turned on. At the moment of the officers choosing the camera can be turned on to active mode with the buffer giving 30 seconds of video prior to.
Each officer wears the camera in a fashion that is most convenient for them, but also so that the field of view is relevant and capturing events. The three most popular places are the belt, which is most secure, the chest or the epilate.
So far the feedback received from the officers and the public has been positive, in the five weeks they have been in operation they have already exonerated one officer in a misconduct accusation.
The cameras are linked to department issued iPhones and through their phones they control the sorting and meta data of the footage as it relates to each incident.
The cameras footage is not accessible to supervisors remotely. To review the footage the officer has to return to the station. There the unit uploads the footage via Wi-Fi to the cloud based server Evidence.com for storage.
For smaller cases the footage is stored for three years then purged, for more serious crimes such as rape, murder, etc., the footage is stored for life.
The footage is not yet part of the Freedom of Information Act or any other public records request acts yet; for now the policy is all footage stays with Fullerton Police Department and the Orange County district attorney’s office if they decide to use it.
The program is still in its infancy, as such the Orange County district attorney’s office has not yet fully incorporated the body camera footage into their cases, but are working on a plan. As more cities adopt this initiative the more pressing the issue will be.