A number of high-profile events in 2020 have put the spotlight on police body cameras and how and when they are used. As a result, it seems like only a matter of time before law-enforcement agencies now resisting body cams decide to deploy them. And when they do, a couple of additional sensors can make those cameras even better.
The central California city of Turlock recently signed a five-year deal with an Arizona company that furnishes police body cams. Their new cameras, officially deployed on October 29 (2020), feature a couple of extra sensors that can really make a difference. Before discussing those sensors however, it might be helpful to talk about sensors in a more general sense.
Definition of a Sensor
We turn to California’s Rock West Solutions for the definition of a sensor. According to their engineers, a sensor is a device that responds to physical stimuli with some sort of signal or impulse that can be measured. With that definition in hand, we could say that a video camera is a sensor of sorts.
A video camera responds to the same visual stimuli our eyes pick up on. Rather than transmitting a signal to a human brain though the camera translates the visual information into digital data that can be stored on a card or transmitted over a network.
Sensors in the law enforcement arena do a variety of things. For example, the sensors in a gunshot detection system can help law enforcement pinpoint the location of a gunshot in real time, thus reducing response times. Automatic license plate readers can capture license plate numbers and send them to a centralized network for real-time analysis.
Automatic Camera Activation
Getting back to the Turlock Police Department, their new body cams feature two sensors capable of automatically activating the devices. Including the sensors eliminates the need for police officers to manually activate their cameras in certain stressful situations. The sensors work as follows:
Weapons Drawn Activation
The first sensor is able to detect when an officer reaches for his or her weapon. Should the sensor be triggered, it automatically turns on the officer’s body cam. The advantages here should be readily apparent:
- Automatic Video Capture – Automatically activating an officer’s body cam guarantees automatic video capture whenever his or her weapon is deployed. As long as cameras and sensors are working properly, there need never be questions about drawn weapons scenarios.
- Fail-Safe Protection – Automatic activation also acts as fail-safe protection for officers. Remember that situations requiring officers to draw their weapons are already stressful enough. Officers may forget to turn their cameras on. Automatic activation solves that problem, protecting officers who otherwise would have to explain why cameras were not manually activated.
The second sensor does for individual officers what gunshot detection systems do for law-enforcement agencies. It automatically activates an officer’s body cam at the sound of a gunshot, regardless of who is responsible for that gunshot. This benefits officers by guaranteeing their cameras are active during the entire time they are seeking out active shooters.
Once again, responding to gunshots in the area is a stressful thing. Turlock officers no longer have to remember to manually activate their cameras in such situations. If a gunshot can be heard in the area, it should activate body cams right away.
Turlock officers are using some of the most advanced body cams on the market. Let us hope they protect both officers and civilians alike. In the meantime, companies like Rock West Solutions are developing even better sensors with more functionality for law enforcement.