Whether you are a fan of the digital revolution or not, it's here to stay. Courts and juries want video (and sometimes audio) evidence in order to convict. Cameras are all around us and in the dash of most cruisers. AI and facial recognition is very close to creating the Brave New World we read about in school.
In the not too distant future criminals will perfect digital crimes, as physical crimes will almost always leave a video trail. Bad people will turn themselves in or be tracked down easily by cameras and AI software. Good people may be hesitant to turn to officers for help in their neighborhoods for fear of leaving a video trail also. Like them or not, most departments are either wearing or testing cameras. With all of the cameras on officers why is the video quality released to date been so poor?
Dashcam footage can be weak due to the static angles of cameras in cruisers versus the fluid nature of confrontation. Body mounted video seems to be worse still with the camera gyrating and capturing mostly unwanted empty space. The audio may still be useful, but the video is mostly useless. Surely the camera companies are smart enough to know there is a disconnect.
Best practice is moving in the direction of center torso mounts for cameras. For good reason; most often an officer is facing the client when filming. Epaulet mounts fail when a weapon is drawn, as do right or left upper chest mounts, due to the two handed training of firing a service weapon. Sun or eyeglass mounts fall off easily when running or in any type of physical struggle. Helmet mounts could work well but the one piece cameras are mostly too bulky and helmets are only worn by operators.
Cameras need to be stabilized and ideally placed between the pockets of the uniform shirt; a little higher or lower depending on seatbelts, male or female, and other personal factors. To complicate matters the center front of most clothing worn (outer carrier vests being an exception) is a placket or facing of some kind, which opens to get the garment on and off. Shirts, jackets, rainwear all have front openings.
Many popular mounts are magnet based and work fairly well through the layers of fabrics, but they can be grabbed or scraped off with a little effort. One company is offering an innovative solution that is worn beneath the outer layer of clothing. The camera “sees” though a metal grommet positioned between the pockets and placed through the outer layer of the uniform.
The best solution for each camera style and technology used is different and should be worked out with the uniform supplier and local dealer. Custom mounts are available from camera companies, and from uniform manufacturers, for almost every type of camera. Being able to quickly customize the garment locally is always best. As technology changes (shrinks or grows) or agencies change camera systems mounting solutions must adapt, and that work is best done locally with the user's feedback and dealer's assistance.
Stephen Blauer is Vice President at Blauer Manufacturing Co., Inc. and is a recognized leader and expert in the field of public safety clothing design. He sits on several standards committees related to garment performance and safety, and has led the innovative development of performance uniforms, apparel, footwear, and accessories which has made Blauer the standard for public safety professionals nationwide.