How Body Worn Cameras, the Cloud Spur Changes in Law Enforcement

Across industries, cloud computing has spurred transformation, allowing entrepreneurs and established companies to more easily store, share and analyze huge quantities of information. Cloud computing is also bringing changes to police agencies as departments turn to cloud or hybrid cloud models to manage ever-increasing volumes of data used to prevent and stop crime.

As federal and state laws and regulations evolve to promote the use of body-worn camera equipment by law enforcement agencies, Panasonic announced the availability of its next generation Arbitrator® BWC (body-worn camera) and enhanced Unified Evidence Management System.

Back in the 1990s, data-driven policing was pioneered with a program called CompStat. More recently, huge quantities of data, including video from body-worn, in-car and stationary cameras, as well as inexpensive analytics programs, and faster computers are hastening moves into data-driven policing, according to a report by the Rand Corporation.

Panasonic System Communications Company of North America VP Greg Peratt is an expert in data-, and particularly video-, driven policing. “Data storage concerns are a major barrier to wider adoption of mobile video evidence solutions – each camera can create up to 1 Gb of data for every hour of video shot, and must be kept secure for evidentiary use and retained indefinitely,” says Peratt.

To help law enforcement agencies address storage issues, Panasonic recently inked an arrangement with Microsoft that allows agencies using Panasonic video evidence solutions to take advantage of Microsoft Azure Government cloud storage, which is contractually committed to meeting the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Security Policy. The cloud storage option is a seamless complement to the new Panasonic Arbitrator BWC, designed and built based on direct feedback from law enforcement organizations. It makes it easier for police to capture, manage and store high-quality video evidence in a cost-effective and flexible manner. In a recent interview, Peratt offered other ideas on how data is impacting police agencies. Highlights follow.

Q: Talk about the technology changes sweeping law enforcement.
Greg Peratt: As recently as the 1990s, police were still working on typewriters, used pen and paper and worried about having big enough file cabinets. Today, I regularly talk to senior detectives of whom the majority are using or managing digital data to solve or prevent crimes. Even the vocabulary of policing has changed as words like image stabilization and digital evidence management become commonplace. And video evidence can include everything from crime scene photos, to records from fingerprint machines to video footage from stationary and mobile cameras.

Q. How are new laws and funding influencing equipment purchases?
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice awarded $23.2 million in grants to some 32 states to expand the use of Body Worn Camera solutions among law enforcement. Recently the state of New Jersey passed a law that required any municipality that purchased a police vehicle for traffic stops to either have a dashboard camera or have the officer wear a body camera. Similar laws have been passed in other states. A 2014 study showed that 62% of public safety agencies have reported that they are evaluating or planning to deploy wearable devices.

Q: When did you start to see the rise of video in policing?
Greg Peratt: About ten years ago, I was on the Toughbook [ruggedized mobile computer] side listening to law enforcement say they wanted to integrate video into the Toughbook and have it marry up to one system. I took that idea, went to management, then to our production division, and had the Arbitrator, an in-car video solution built. It’s a very successful product now. It’s truly the voice of the customer.

Q: Do you think that video has changed police – community interactions?
One thing police agencies have reported to us is a change in the complaints, especially when law enforcement is able to show a high-quality video recording of an event. In fact, recent studies have shown complaints against police fall when the officer is wearing a camera, while daily arrest activity increases. We’ve also been told that video evidence helps to move cases through the court system more quickly.

Read more in Beyond Body-Worn Camera Hardware: Considerations for Developing a Complete Unified Evidence Management Solution