A new camera device is coming to your local police force: Taser’s Axon Flex, a half-ounce, wearable camera. It can be mounted on sunglasses, a shirt collar, baseball cap or police helmet. The images can be seen by the officer on an iphone or android mobile phone.
This type of camera would be very helpful in resolving disputes involving police shootings, where it is common to have the officer’s claim that he or she was in reasonable apprehension of imminent harm disputed by family members and/or witnesses.
On the other hand, whereas dash cam video can only record what occurs in the immediate proximity of the squad car, a wearable camera can record wherever the officer goes. This raises reasonable privacy concerns. Are we one more step closer to Big Brother and “1984“?
Taser will store the video on its cloud storage server system at evidence.com (this service is owned by Taser but managed by Amazon.com). This service would presumably make it easier for prosecutors and defense attorneys to have access to the video.
From the N.Y. Times:
By holding the video evidence on remote servers, Taser hopes to help law enforcement agencies achieve the cost savings that cloud computing has provided for business and industry. The cloud product, Taser says, does not require an information technology professional on the police department’s payroll. It cuts down on losses from poor storage of disks or tape, loss or theft of evidence or even evidence-tampering.
Taser will charge clients on a sliding scale that involves both the amount of data stored and customer support. The system could cost a small department a few thousand dollars a year or a few hundred thousand dollars for a large force. Taser is initially offering the first year of the service at no charge in the hopes of luring a lot of customers to the cloud. The new cameras sell for $1,000, including a battery that lasts 14 hours.
According to Taser, once the video has been uploaded to the cloud, it cannot be erased or tampered with. We shall see if this turns out to be true.
Of course, police officers would still have the ability to turn their cameras off when they wish to; this has been a recurring problem here in Chicago.