First, we need reliable + simple-to-use cameras that capture what really happened on-scene. ” The reliability of these devices, which are depended upon to capture the clear truth in any situation that ends up needing review, is of upmost importance“ explains Morgan Castorena, Sr. Product Manager, Axon. “Without cameras that officers and citizens can trust as reliable sources of truth for any and all incidents, moments would be missed, and (the) veracity of any critical encounters would be questioned.”
The key to having a true view of a scene is to capture it from as many angles as possible: from the point-of-view of the officer, the vehicle and the surrounding environment.
“The position of the camera makes all the difference. In-car cameras, such as Fleet 3 cameras, provide footage of officers and detainees in a vehicle and can even include contextual clues such as speed and location of the vehicle. Body-worn cameras, on the other hand, capture the officer’s point of view when speaking to or interacting with a civilian.”
Axon Body 3, Fleet 3, Flock and Axon Air products are the standard in cameras for many agencies globally. “In an effort to show a completely unbiased perspective of the encounter or call for service, these cameras have become increasingly adopted, and are often times now expected by both law enforcement and the public” concluded Castorena.
Clear and responsible policy protects both your agency and the public and ensures that the tools you use are helping to protect all parties. While Axon neither creates nor recommends specific policy protocols for public safety agencies, the International Association of Chief of Police, or IACP, does have a model policy for body-worn camera programs that agencies are welcome to review.
Agencies that do not adopt official, clear, enforceable policy suffer from lower activation rates, as camera usage is left largely or entirely to the discretion of individual officers.
There are two types of policy we have found positively impact officer performance:
- Policies around which calls require officers to activate their body-worn camera
- Policies around the video review process and cadence conducted by supervisors
Most agencies nationwide do have thoughtful body-worn camera policies in place, and the Axon Ecosystem can help with compliance.
“After George Floyd, the primary focus for policy compliance has shifted from reducing administrative workloads and reactively investigating incidents post-mortem to ‘early intervention’” explains Thuc Nguyen, Product Manager, Axon Performance.
What does this mean? Agencies are “proactively spot-checking video footage to pre-empt bad habits before those bad habits turn into bad real-world outcomes. Your agency can also use these video reviews as an opportunity to recognize good behaviors and continually train officers” added Nguyen.
There are two key pieces of technology agencies use to proactively impact compliance: Axon Signal and Axon Performance.
We’ve spent considerable time and resources building out the Axon Signal product line to drive camera activation rates. Physical hardware sensors like Signal Sidearm and Axon Fleet Signal Vehicles, as well as programmatic integrations with CAD systems, work to activate officers’ cameras in potentially critical incidents.
“Axon Signal supports automatic activations based on situations like a TASER 7 being armed or its trigger being pulled, based on signals received from Fleet 3 such as a detected vehicle impact...based on a firearm being unholstered when using Signal Sidearm” explains Rafael Lopez-Uricoechea, Senior Product Manager, Axon.
Lopez-Uricoechea emphasizes the benefit of configurable notifications attached to Signal activations. “An agency could set themselves up to receive mobile and web notifications whenever a TASER 7 is armed, and from there, a supervisor could tap or click on the notification to begin livestreaming from the camera to instantly get increased awareness of the situation that is developing in the field”.
Remote Camera Activation from CAD is the last key piece of Axon Signal. “We’ve developed a way for agencies to integrate their existing CAD solutions with Axon Evidence such that for all or a subset of calls, cameras are automatically activated either based on which officers are assigned to the call or based on the location of the CFS.” remarks Lopez-Uricoechea. Through CFS assignments, as soon as an officer is dispatched to a call, their camera turns on, which aligns well with many current agency policies today. Through geofences, cameras that arrive to the scene of potentially critical incidents after the incident has begun are also activated once they reach the scene.
For her part, Castorena is confident that these safeguards will only improve as time goes on. “One area that future cameras can continue improving is in the realm of automatic activations...We cannot expect humans to be accurate 100% of the time, which is why we need smart technology to identify situations that require evidential recordings. Not only will this boost up that reliability factor of cameras, it will also help reduce the cognitive load for officers and allow them to focus on other tasks at hand.”
Another key piece of the Axon Ecosystem that drives policy compliance is Axon Performance.
“Our Performance tool analyzes use of BWCs within an agency and compares that to policy, helping to provide insight into compliance” explains Castorena.
From there, your agency can craft policy to reflect your ideal camera activation numbers and use Performance for positive coaching.
HOW AXON PERFORMANCE DRIVES COMPLIANCE
- Regular Video Reviews - Performance provides a streamlined video review workflow. An efficient and consistent video review process reinforces the importance of activation to your officers and drives both professional accountability and compliance with your agency’s policy.
- Activation “Carrots” - Performance uses positive reinforcement to boost camera activation rates. Your officers receive encouragement and recognition if they consistently activate their body-worn camera above agency-configured goals.
- Streamlined video review workflow
• Real-time metrics - Agency leadership can monitor near-real-time metrics such as activation rates, ID rate, categorization rate and power cycling on your Performance dashboard.
• Fair review - Performance allows agency leadership to randomly and fairly review recorded videos. Reviewed videos can then be used as examples for further training at your police academy.
• Directly stream videos from Axon Evidence within Performance’s own video review experience.
- Priority-Ranked Video Audit - Priority-Ranked Video Audit (PRVA) selects the most “eventful” videos for supervisor review using keyword detection, TASER trigger events and Signal Sidearm events. Performance scores and ranks each video so that the most critical video is reviewed first.
HOW PERFORMANCE HELPS YOUR AGENCY
- Create a truly random video review process
- Make the biggest impact with limited time
- Reduce administrative workloads
- Facilitate frequent feedback loops between supervisors and officers
Our “fallback” is called Video Recall. This is a camera setting that allows us to recover a recording that was never actually “recorded,” a moment that otherwise would have been lost forever. This feature works while still providing careful controls, permissions and strict privacy protection for our agencies, officers and the public.
“Video Recall is a continuous “background buffer” that is always recording on Axon Body 3 and Fleet cameras“ explains Castorena. ”This functionality continuously captures and encodes evidence into 30-minute segments and stores them in a special partition of the camera’s memory...On Axon Body 3, the storage area can hold 18 continuous hours of footage, and once that becomes full, the newest footage begins overriding the oldest.“
THE VIDEO RECALL USE CASE
Imagine you’re an officer at an agency whose recording policy requires you to activate your body-worn camera as soon as you begin interacting with the public. You have reason to perform a traffic stop and pull over a vehicle. As you approach, the driver of the vehicle immediately draws a weapon and becomes agitated. Your mind immediately jumps to how you can de-escalate this situation, so you begin trying to calm the driver down and draw your (TASER energy weapon). With your free hand, you press the button of your radio to communicate to dispatch that you need back up. All the while, your body-worn camera is on your chest, but the event button has not been pressed. You arm your TASER energy weapon, and luckily your agency has this configured to trigger an automatic BWC recording. However, when the incident ends and you need to review the evidence, no digital evidence of the lead up to the escalation is captured.
With Video Recall, an admin can take your body-worn camera and plug it into a computer running Axon ViewXL Standalone. They recall the 30-minute segment right before the camera’s automatic Signal activation. Now you have the full picture of what led up to the event before that TASER was armed.
Video Recall footage remains on the camera unless explicitly “recalled” by an administrator with the appropriate permission. When recalling evidence, an admin can use our ViewXL Standalone application to select the time frame in which a critical incident happened and upload all footage from that time. The evidence is then uploaded into Axon Evidence and is available for playback, sharing, etc.
This functionality was designed with officer privacy in-mind. Given it is a fallback for when all other means of activation did not occur, it is important that it is not misused. The following safeguards are in place to protect officer privacy:
- Unique permission required to recall video
- Manual requisition process required to recall video
- No playback functionality for recalled video
- Clear audit trail of Video Recall actions
- Sleep Mode stops all buffering and recording
THE HUMAN TOUCH
While technology is a huge asset, at the end of the day is it just that, an asset. Technology is a tool that impacts the humans who use it. “We designed and built these automatic activation features with officer privacy as a top of mind concern” explains Lopez-Uricoechea.
“Officers can use the Sleep Mode functionality in their body-worn camera when they’re on a break or otherwise in a private situation...In addition to extending the running time/battery life of the camera...Sleep Mode will prevent the camera from automatically activating.”
Axon staunchly supports officer privacy and autonomy, so ultimately the officer is always in control. If a signal product turns on an officer’s camera and the officer deems that activation to be a mistake, the officer can manually stop that recording with a single tap, just like any recording they start themselves.
NEVER MISS A MOMENT
When we put all of these pieces together: reliable cameras, informed policy, strong activation rates and a fallback, we will Never Miss a Moment. We will capture truth. We will accelerate justice. And we will continue doing everything we can to protect life. For everyone.