BPD Body Cam Pilot Program Advancing

May 19, 2017

Here is an example of a current test unit for the officer worn camera pilot project in Bloomington. Police will try a similar system from the same vendor that is newer and has a longer battery life.
Credit Bloomington Police Department

Bloomington police said they want to look at a next generation body camera product because the first one under review doesn't have enough battery life.

Cameras are supposed to have eight hours of recording time. But, some batteries are lasting only three hours. Chief Brendan Heffner said the law is ambiguous because it's not clear whether ten hours refers to recording capacity or battery life.

Sergeant Clayton Arnold is overseeing the pilot project of 12 officers using body cams. Sergeant Arnold said there are procedural hurdles to clear as well, such as deciding how much time to allocate for report writing with access to body camera footage.

"The camera doesn't catch everything. It's one view of events and not everything you would like to capture on video is going to be. So, you are always going to have to lay some foundation of the sequence of events," said Arnold.

Arnold said officers are having to learn to narrate their scene in real time while the camera is recording to provide context, almost as if they were producing a documentary.

There are also best practices to learn in using the footage after the fact.

"The amount of hours you can spend now writing a report can go up exponentially just because if you have an hour long call for service, you could spend an hour reviewing and taking notes along the way. That was not always  the case. You would hit the most critical points of your incident, and that was it," said Arnold.

If tests go well, Chief Brendan Heffner said body cams could go department-wide early next year.

If the camera doesn't perform, then they'll have to wait and see. Chief Heffner said there are a lot of horror stories about departments that ran out and got cameras and they turned out to be duds or didn't perform.

He said one of the important features they want is automatic camera activation when the indoor car lights come on. Heffner said if the officer has to get out of the car in a hurry, he or she shouldn't have to mess with a switch on their chest. Another must have is a speedy download time to department servers to prevent lost officer time in the station.

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