Police officers could soon be equipped with cameras attached to their uniform recording incidents as they happen and providing valuable evidence in the fight against crime.
Taser International, the manufacturer of stun guns now used in everyday police work, has developed the technology which it claims could be the next major advancement in policing.
The Axon Flex, is similar to the Glass project being developed by Google, and consists of a head-mounted camera worn by officers to record evidence from incidents as they work their patrols.
It could not only prove invaluable in collecting evidence, but also in providing greater transparency in incidents where officers are accused of over-reacting and save forces on expensive litigation.
Launched last year, the 3.2-inch camera can be clipped onto a baseball cap or Oakley eye wear, with a control unit that can worn on the inside of the police uniform, just below the chest.
Once switched on, the camera operates constantly, for up to 12 hours. But it only begins recording when the officer presses a quarter-sized button on the front of the control unit.
Then it captures the previous 30 seconds of video only, without audio, before beginning full audio-and-video recording.
As the camera captures evidence, the video is sent by Bluetooth to an iPhone or Android device and streamed over 3G to Taser’s cloud platform, Evidence.com. It is a web service designed to store and categorize videos so they can be used in court to bolster police reports.
Civil liberty groups have expressed concerns about privacy issues, but the manufacturers claim the increased transparency the technology brings will benefit everyone.
Cincinnati-based civil rights lawyer Scott Greenwood told The Verge that police forces around the country could save millions if the technology is used properly.
‘You really can’t overstate how much liability could be decreased with the use of these devices,’ he said.
Left: The Axon Flex system is modeled on an officer and, right, the interface for the Evidence.com platofrm
He believes Flex could be beneficial to police while protecting the rights of civilians, but specific policies are required to ensure officers don’t just turn the system off when it suits them to.
The technology is already being used by several police departments. In Mesa, Arizona, the force has purchased $50,000 worth of the cameras and believes it will quickly pay for itself in helping to defend against lawsuits.
Last year allegations from a false arrest and traffic incident forced Mesa to pay $62,500 to settle just one case, reports The Verge.
The likelihood of Axon Flex being adopted by police forces across the country is heightened by the fact it is made by the developer of the taser, which is now used by nearly 90 percent of the U.S.’s 18,000 police departments.
Taser has also been accepted onto Google’s Glass Explorer program to look at future of law enforcement.
The company is confident that this type of technology will become part of everyday police work over the next ten years.