UTC Police has installed a new high tech video recording system that promotes the safety of the officers and the community, ensures officer accountability, and helps with liability.
The new systems consist of the DVR and the video screen in the cab with the officer. It has two cameras, one which is pointed out the front windshield of the patrol car while the other points into the back seat. The back camera records anything that may go on in the back seat of the car and, in conjunction with the video screen, can allow the officer to monitor the backseat without turning around. The system also features a microphone, which can be worn in a number of ways, such as clipped onto the officer’s belt.
Three triggers will begin the system recording: manually pressing the record button, turning on the microphone, or turning on the lights and or sirens in the patrol car. As soon as the system begins recording, the microphone is turned on.
The mere presence of the recording system greatly increases safety.
“When I communicate to a community member that a camera is recording the incident, it deescalates immediately,” says Corporal Johnson. “When people know they’re being recorded, they usually behave more civilly.”
The video recording system it also an excellent tool for training and evaluation. Because all incidents are recorded, they are easily reviewed by the officer and by his or her superiors. This is an important means of ensuring accountability.
“Many officers, myself included, review the tapes of our interactions just for self-critique, to see what we’ve done wrong and what we’ve done right. It also reminds us to be aware of what we’re doing,” says Corporal Johnson.
The recording system is also vital in resolving disputes and protecting the University or UTC Police from unwarranted litigation.
The cameras are always recording on a thirty second loop, so that any time a recording is initiated, the preceding thirty seconds are also recorded. When an incident happens and an officer turns the lights and sirens on, the system already has a memory of thirty seconds prior, catching any probable cause or circumstances that lead to the incident.
“I recently stopped a motorist for running a red light. They claimed not to have run the light, so I said, ‘Come back here and look at the tape.’ It was right there on tape, so they had to admit that they had run the light,” says Corporal Johnson.
This isn’t the first video recording system that UTC Police cars have had, but the new systems have a number of superior features to the old systems.
Older systems that used tape, DVD, and then hard drives were all susceptible to running out of recording space.
Corporal Johnson explains, “You might get in the car and say, ‘The memory is full and it’s two o’clock in the morning, there’s no one to download this. So then you would have been stuck.’”
“When it comes to downloading, we don’t have to do anything. It’s automatic. It uses Wi-Fi and downloads automatically onto the server so everything is captured. So there’s no chance of losing the media – the disk or anything. And there’s no possibility of forgetting to upload or running out of memory,” says Corporal Johnson.
The new systems, in addition to recording audio and visual, also use GPS to record location, speed of the cruiser, date, time, whether or not lights, sirens, or other emergency equipment was in use.
Emergencies may be reported to the UTC Public Safety Department by dialing (423)425-HELP, or (423)425-4357.