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11+ features that define the best body cameras for law enforcement

A police officer's torso wearing an Axon Body 4 camera and a TASER device occupies the foreground. An out-of-focus police vehicle with its lights on can be seen in the background.

By highlighting the features that make for the best body cam for police, this list can help you determine the right solution for your agency

The badge may be the most prominent symbol of the police officer, but in today's high-tech policing landscape, the body camera has quickly become as ubiquitous as that venerable emblem.

States increasingly mandate their use in law enforcement, and departments that implement them have observed promising improvements to officer complaints and clearance rates. But not all police body cameras are created equal. Battery life, durability, integrations with other technology, cost-effectiveness – body cameras vary widely along these lines and others. If you're looking for the best body cameras for your agency, this list of the most important features will help you make the right call.

Key features of the best body cameras

High video quality

One of the key advantages of a body camera is its ability to document an objective view of events. That's helpful across a wide range of industries, from healthcare to private security. Footage from body-worn cameras also powers an increase in clearance rates among law enforcement agencies that incorporate them. Of course, the evidence provided by these cameras is only as useful as the footage is clear. That's why the best body cam for police prioritizes high video quality.The Axon Body 4's new 4:3 aspect ratio, with a 160-degree field of view, increases visibility by 39%, allowing you to capture more of the situation. Plus, our upgraded 5 MP sensor provides sharper images with more detail.

Extended battery life and rapid charging

As useful as a body-worn camera can be, battery failure can reduce it to nothing more than a fancy paperweight. The best body cameras employ a battery that lasts through an entire shift without a hiccup, ensuring they continue to capture crucial evidence throughout the course of an officer’s whole workday. These cameras also employ rapid charging capabilities to ensure minimal downtime when charge depletion becomes unavoidable.

With a larger 4300 mAh battery, Axon Body 4 was built to last a full shift (13+ hours). Should you need to recharge, you can get back to work quickly with the new magnetic disconnect fast charge cable, which delivers a 20% charge to your device in 30 minutes.

Intuitive user interface

No matter how powerful a piece of technology is, if the user interface is too convoluted, it won’t get used. That’s especially true if it’s tech that’s deployed in the field, where a thousand small things can make it difficult for law enforcement officers to operate it in high-pressure situations. The best body cam for police uses an intuitive interface that requires minimal instruction. The easier the camera is to use, the more often officers will use it, and the more effective their casework will become.

Axon prioritized a streamlined interface when designing the Axon Body 4. Body 4 has a sleek, clear display that makes it easy to start and stop recording, glean its operating status at a glance and adjust its settings. Programmable buttons provide for individual customization, making it incredibly officer-friendly, and its wide range of features – from real-time footage upload to lightning-quick charging – represent the cutting edge of body camera tech. Learn more here.

Rugged build quality

When body-worn cameras were first deployed, they suffered from two physical shortcomings: They fell off officers easily, and their storage drives couldn’t stand up to the rigors of active duty. To address the first, look for cameras that use modern fastening mechanisms, such as powerful wing clip and Z-bracket mounts. For the second, seek out cameras with solid-state drives, as these are far more reliable than traditional hard disks. Compact design can also help keep the device functioning after impacts.

The Axon Body 4 offers several mounting options, from reinforced flexible magnet mounts to Z-bracket mounts. This ensures your officers have a mounting fit that works for them and that won't fall off, no matter the physical demands of the job. The Body 4 also features a 128GB solid-state hard drive and superior build quality to ensure recording goes uninterrupted.

Abundant data storage

Video footage takes up a lot of digital storage space, especially in the wide field of view and high resolution that body cameras employ. As a result, it’s crucial that your body camera solution include a reasonable amount of on-device storage for recording in addition to a longer-term evidence repository for offloading.

Generally speaking, around 100 gigabytes of on-device storage should suffice for day-to-day operations. When it comes time to offload that footage, using body cameras that can upload straight to the cloud make it easy to keep evidence organized with a smaller physical storage footprint, at a more affordable price and with the best possible security. The Axon Body 4 offers 128GB of storage and, with Priority Evidence Upload, can use LTE to upload footage wirelessly to your evidence repository. Speaking of security…

Airtight security

Body cameras record highly sensitive information that must be protected from unwanted access. Individuals recorded using these devices have rights agencies need to protect, and security functionality such as data encryption can help them do so. In addition to encrypting footage, the best body cameras feed it into systems that employ customizable user permissions and audit trails. These controls ensure that only authorized users access these materials and preserve the chain of evidence.

The Axon Body 4 protects your footage using XTS-AES 256 encryption. Its seamless integration with Axon Evidence makes it easy to further safeguard against intrusion. Audit logs generate automatically whenever a user interacts with a piece of evidence, and a copy of the original file always remains in storage.

Each user can be assigned a role that defines their permissions, ensuring no one user has more access than they should. Finally, analytics can monitor system usage in the background to make it easier to spot unusual behavior.

Flexible integrations

Before investing in them, consider: How much are body cameras going to interact with other solutions in your agency’s tech stack? Identify where these points of contact will take place – whether they’re in evidence intake, sharing to parties outside the agency, or in-car deployment – and search for a body camera that will integrate with the software your department already has in place. The right camera for you will slot into pre-existing workflows with minimal disruption, keeping the transition into use as smooth as possible.

The Axon Body 4 hits the apex of its usability with the rest of the Axon software suite, but its core features work well with a wide range of software. If hiccups do arise, Axon’s support staff stand ready to troubleshoot any and all issues to ensure your body cameras operate at peak performance.

Policy support

State and local laws around body cameras are constantly in flux, and that can make it hard for resource-strained departments to create an all-encompassing body camera policy. That’s where body camera manufacturers can help. As experts in the field, they can provide well-informed, data-driven model policies and policy guidance as part of their product offerings. They may even provide active support as your department develops a policy tailor-made for its deployment environment.

As a leader in body-worn camera design, Axon has produced a body of support resources agencies can use to build out their policies. That support begins with the My Axon resource center and extends to the scores of articles, webinars and more Axon has published over the last several years. Axon experts are also available to help construct a policy that meets your local requirements.

Location services

Innumerable things can go wrong in the field, and officers frequently require support. Unfortunately, they can’t always communicate their locations to dispatch or to other officers in the area. They may be in the middle of a pursuit, taking shelter during a confrontation, or simply disoriented by the chaos of a call for service.

That’s where GPS-based location services, updated and relayed to dispatch in real-time, can become a life-saving feature. With it, officers are never out of reach and reinforcements always know exactly where to go.

The Axon Body 4 was designed to protect officers against ever leaving the support safety net. Not only does it update user locations in real-time with live maps and instant alerts, it also powers bidirectional communications and video livestreams through Axon Respond to ensure officers in the field get the aid they need.

Automatic activation

In the heat of a crisis, pressing the power button on a camera may not always be top of mind. Responding to the active threats can, understandably, take precedence. And as useful as body cameras are, they’re no good to officers if they’re never turned on. The best body cameras preempt this challenge by incorporating automatic activation. These cameras detect gunshots, take proximity readings, and use other methods to turn themselves on whenever officers might need the support they provide. That frees up officers to focus on the incident at hand.

The Axon Body 4 has several configurable activation triggers. It can turn itself on when officers arrive at a particular location, when they're given certain event assignments and when the camera detects a gunshot. That helps ensure incidents are captured as evidence in full, no matter the situation.

Advanced features

Beyond these foundational features, body cameras can provide a wide range of additional features that make police work easier, safer, more efficient, and more accountable.

  • Live streaming from body cameras to dispatch or to a real time crime center helps officers get support as action unfolds, providing extra sets of eyes and instant aid.

  • Real-time uploading of body camera footage can streamline evidence intake, freeing up local BWC storage and ensuring officers have all the footage they need to write accurate and comprehensive reports.

  • POV camera accessories can provide another angle on the action, enabling more robust evidence collection.

  • Bidirectional communications can fill the gaps left when radio comms become impossible for one reason or another, ensuring officers can always get the help they need.

As a cutting-edge BWC, the Axon Body 4 integrates all these features and more.

How Axon can help

Axon designed the Body 4 camera to check every box a body camera could. Its field-tested battery lasts the length of a shift, recording crystal clear footage, encrypting it, and uploading it in real-time to cloud storage solutions such as Axon Evidence. It also incorporates location services, bidirectional communication, live-streaming, and automatic alerts to keep officers as safe as possible. Get in touch today to learn more about how the Axon Body 4 can power up your agency.