Body Cameras Review Criteria
Our goal is to use our expertise to save you time and valuable funds. Good public tax-payer money is being allocated to purchase police body cameras and public pressure is growing for law enforcement agencies across the US to adopt the new technology quickly. Many police departments are responsible with their budgets and public grant money but don't have specific experience and knowledge with body camera technology to be able to sift through all the new body cameras on the market. We give a "no-nonsense" examination of the most critical aspects of body camera technology that law enforcement agencies should consider when researching body cameras. If you don't agree with our reviews, you're welcome to try out the camera yourself, but you will get the same results.
Our Review Criteria is as follows:
The purpose of a body camera is to effectively mount on the body to capture useful video images as video evidence. The most critical aspect is mounting the body camera correctly so it captures a useful angle of the action. Capturing video of the sky in a critical shootout is useless in court.
Lenses- Most body cameras on the market have fixed static lenses; limiting mounting options and recording angles. Officers with taller stature or bigger chest, often end up pointing their cameras to the sky. This is why cameras with rotatable lenses, POV camera options are best for mounting to capturing exactly what the officers saw in the field.
Weight and size are factors in mounting. Bigger size may offer longer battery life, but the trade-off is having to wear a clunky extra piece of equipment on your uniform.
Clips and brackets are other factors we examine. Body cameras are useless if they get knocked off in critical moments because of a weak clip. In the real world of police work, you need to be assured that the camera will have a secure grip on the uniform and not be easily knocked off in a chase or struggle situation. Shaky bouncing video that does not capture the action is useless in court. It needs to be steady and secure.
Body Cameras need to be simple in design and easy to use.
Battery life is important, however, a department should consider battery life based on policy. Most battery life is measured in continuous recording (the camera is on and recording the entire time). Many body camera policies allow officers to turn the camera on when engaging with the public and turn the camera off when not engaged with the public so as not to accumulate useless video of nothing that needs to be stored and take up valuable video storage space. Also, most battery life is measured based on the lowest quality video setting. Higher quality video settings usually drain power quicker, reducing battery life run time.
Switches are recommended because with buttons, it's easy to forget if you pressed it and some cameras you need to press and hold the button for so many seconds before it activates and records. With switches, you can verify if the switch is up or down by sight and feel.
Status lights - Some departments like status lights because it lets suspects know they are being recorded and they may behave better knowing their words and actions are being recorded. However, in some cases, especially at night, a bright light on the body risks giving away an officers position and making them a target if they're in a tactical situation so status lights are not good in this situation. We recommend a status light that is configurable so officers can choose to have the light on or not.
Body cameras need to be able to stand up to everyday police work. They need to be able to operate in various environmental conditions. They need to survive falls or impacts due to a fight or struggle. We measure the cameras based on their casing, drop test ratings and IP (Ingress Protection) ratings.
Most body cameras offer true HD 1080p 30fps quality of video recording. The problem with higher quality video is it creates bigger video files that take up storage space and drain battery life.
Field of view is an important feature. Field of view of 120 degrees is the maximum field of view a camera can have before the image warps and takes on a "fish-eye" look.
Night Vision - Some department policies do not want night vision because it is not a fair representation of the officer's visual perception in dark conditions. Similarly, cameras with expanded field of views over 120 degrees give a distorted fish-eye look and do not represent the officer's field of view.
We look at the other capabilities the camera offers like pre-record, automatic triggering, live feed capability, GPS, speaker mic integration (PTT), etc. While not the most important factors to consider, extra functions of the body camera make it a more useful police tool for everyday police work.
Push to Talk (PTT) feature that allows an officer to connect the body camera to their police radio and use the body camera as a speaker microphone to save space on the uniform.
Pre-record function has become popular as a way to back up video if an officer is caught in a sudden situation like a fight or struggle with a suspect, where they need to react quickly and do not have time to activate the camera.