Across the U.S., police departments are starting to adopt body cameras to ensure police misconduct is kept to a minimum and that definitive evidence is recorded to protect officers, victims, and alleged perpetrators alike. The recommendation to increase the use of these body cameras is really taking off, and 77% of police officers believe that body cams are more effective than the ones they have on their car dashes.
However, in order to be effective, these body cameras need to work in the way in which they were intended. And while New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced that all NYPD patrol officers would have body cameras by 2019, the city’s contract with their body camera company of choice is now being scrutinized.
That’s because it’s come to light that the Seattle-based company, VieVu, has received numerous complaints from other police departments around the country. As recently as January of this year, dissatisfaction within Ohio, Arizona, and Florida police departments was expressed as a result of their use. One of the main complaints noted was dropped video frames from footage.
An Ohio police chief told reporters, “The system that we got wasn’t what we thought it would be.” Their cameras from VieVu began to fail and the department chose to replace them with cameras from Taser International, the undeniable go-to within the body cam industry.
Taser actually sent a protest letter regarding de Blasio’s decision to use VieVu to the NYPD commissioner. They referred to it as a “grave error that will endanger officers and members of the public.” The company also contacted some of their stakeholders to discredit VieVu’s technology.
Now, the $6.4 million contract between VieVu and the NYPD is being scrutinized by New York City’s Department of Investigation. The details of the investigation are being withheld, but some speculate that the department may be questioning de Blasio’s choice to go with a smaller company with a “questionable reputation” over an established and reputable brand like Taser.
However, De Blasio stands by his decision. He also dismisses Taser’s claims that VieVo isn’t up to the task of equipping the NYPD with high-quality body cams. “I don?t think it?s the first time in the history of the free enterprise system that we?ve seen one company try to smear another,” said the mayor.
And while body cams are thought to have a positive effect on officers’ behavior and may decrease citizen complains, it’s too early to definitively say whether the substantial investment will be worthwhile. In addition, security experts are concerns about privacy laws being maintained with the widespread use of this technology.
But given the hot button issues of police shootings and racial unrest within this country, police departments across the nation are defending body cam use as a necessity. That being said, the technology needs to keep improving — body cams can easily fall off and footage may not be of good quality in more physical situations — before they can be considered completely reliable.
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