Body cams safeguard University of Dayton students

Cameras assist officers with positive identification as evidence
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Friday, December 6, 2013

DAYTON, Ohio—Body-worn digital cameras at the University of Dayton have made interactions between campus police officers and students more positive and peaceful, says Randall Groesbeck, director of administration and security for the Department of Public Safety there.

More than 20 patrolmen on campus have been wearing VIEVU’s wireless video cameras on their vests for about a year now. Previously, they had no cameras on the beat, Groesbeck, who is also a major in the campus police department, told Security Director News.

When officers confront someone who is disorderly—or worse—on campus, they turn on their cameras with the flick of a switch. The cameras are about the size of a cellphone.

“It provides a means for us to record activity, including audio, at the scene that we didn’t have before. When an officer turns on the camera, individuals know that, too. I think it changes the way people behave when talking with an officer. And, officers are acutely aware that their behavior is being recorded,” Groesbeck said.

Often students will complain after an incident with campus police, charging they were mistreated, he said. However, playing back the video has cleared officers more often than not. “Having that visual and audio proof saved a number of officers from disciplinary action, or at least an investigation, because there was nothing that they did wrong,” he said.

The cameras also assist officers with positive identification as evidence and help them recall what exactly occurred, Groesbeck said.

On any given day there are between 11,000 and 15,000 people on the Dayton campus.

“As the use of smartphones has grown, virtually everyone out there has a camera at their disposal. They can take video at the scene, and then edit it to the parts they want to present” on social media sites, for example, he said. “So we knew we wanted to get our officers cameras as well, but not phones. These [VIEVU cameras] are purpose-built.”

Officers don’t have access to do anything with their cameras other than to record with them and download the video at the end of their shifts. They can’t see another officer’s video nor can they modify their own.

“There are no wires or cables, you just take that thing off, download it if necessary and put it in the charger. It’s very easy to use,” Groesbeck said.

The system is limited in that the camera takes images only where it’s pointed, he said. When an officer is engaged in an incident he “is not looking through a viewfinder.”

“He doesn’t line up the suspects and say, ‘Say cheese.’” But even if the camera isn’t pointed toward the suspect, it still has audio capabilities, which is often more valuable as evidence, he said.

VIEVU just announced the launch of its second version of the wearable camera, designed for “prosumers,” such as those in private security, small- and medium-sized businesses, insurance, HR/employee relations, facilities management, transportation and manufacturing. It can help reduce workplace theft, accountability and liability claims, the company said.

The latest version records in HD (1280x720) and SD (640x480) modes, with a 95-degree  field of view; 90 minutes of recording time, 16GB of on-board storage, and live video streaming capability via 802.11 g/n wireless.

A VIEVU smart app pairs VIEVU² to smartphones for storage and view-finding; and enables streaming of live video to Android or any Wi-Fi network, or upload to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, email, and text accounts. A built-in editor enables quick trimming of videos or to add titles/add filters.