New Accountability Add-On Triggers Cameras When Police Officers Unholster Their Guns

from the shooting-and-shooting dept

Taser, the company, gets a lot of cop love because of its titular product, which is deployed (too) frequently to subdue arrestees. It probably doesn’t get as much love for its body cameras, especially since it’s already wired one line to sync footage with Taser deployment.

Its cameras are going to get even less love now. Taser’s latest product looks to ensure no shooting goes unrecorded.

To ensure accountability during police encounters, Axon, Taser’s police body camera division, has announced a small sensor for gun holsters that can detect when a gun is drawn and automatically activate all nearby cameras. The sensor, Signal Sidearm, is part of a suite of products aimed at reducing the possibility that officers will fail to or forget to switch on their cameras during encounters with the public.

This isn’t a welcome development for cops who’d rather have every shooting/killing go unrecorded. And it’s probably not going to be picked up by many departments as it’s an aftermarket add-on that serves the singular purpose of accountability.

But if law enforcement agencies are serious about building trust, they should make the purchase. Too many police shootings result in “FILE NOT FOUND” errors when the public (or their representatives) ask for footage of the incident. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens with enough frequency that missing footage is conspicuous in its absence. Bullets start flying, and all of a sudden, cameras stop working.

What it won’t do is prevent cops from “fixing it in post.” As long as officers have access to uploaded/stored footage, there’s always a chance the recording will be deleted, altered, or made useless. True accountability can’t be achieved with a holster add-on. It has to start at the bottom and be enforced by the top.

That being said, triggered recordings take away the “discretion” aspect, freeing up cops to concentrate on the matter at hand, rather than post-incident possibilities. It also eliminates the “didn’t have time to activate” excuse, which has proven ultra-handy over the years.

Say what you will about Taser’s taser, but its camera division (Axon) continues to make strides towards better law enforcement accountability. In addition to the gun-out, camera-on clip, Axon has also made body/dash cameras that begin recording when squad car doors are opened and/or the cruiser’s lights are turned on.

Maybe cops who prefer opacity will still hold a place in their heart for Taser, even after being “subjected” to greater accountability. After all, the company gave law enforcement the gift of “excited delirium,” a supposed medical condition that only develops in the presence of law enforcement. It’s bite mark analysis-level junk science that serves a single purpose: to make an arrestee’s death their own fault, rather than place the blame on the multiple officers tasing/beating/crushing the suspect while hollering exonerating phrases (STOP RESISTING).

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Comments on “New Accountability Add-On Triggers Cameras When Police Officers Unholster Their Guns”

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Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Re: Half a bone

No sensible cop (or lawful civilian carrier) would accept a gun dependent on an external electronic signal: it could be jammed by hackers, whether working for terrorists, gangsters or individual criminals. Look up “electronic warfare,” an important branch of military art dating back at least to WW2.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Hey Siri

That is very nice hair splitting there. The thing is though, how many people when struggling to breath are going to get down and dirty into the semantics? “I can’t breath” is a totally valid way to tell someone “Excuse me mister, I am having a very difficult time breathing, could you please not do that?”

freedomfan (profile) says:

The more effective, technologically simpler, more robust, and ultimately cheaper solution is to simply have the camera always on. That way we (mostly) obviate police statements like, "Sure, the video seems to show the officer yelling at and then shooting an unarmed suspect. But, we should believe the officer when he claims that, seconds before the camera started rolling, the suspect was acting in a deadly and life-threatening manner."

And, fine, let there be a button that the cop can push that turns off the camera for five minutes for potty breaks. As long as the rule is clear that it’s grounds for termination to use said button when responding to a call, talking to a witness/suspect, etc.

Chuck says:

Need more tasers

I just wanted to say that, frankly, we need MORE tasers, not less. If it was up to me, no cops would be issued an actual firearm unless they have zero complaints in their first year on the job. They’d all start with tasers and only after they’ve demonstrated they know WTF they’re doing would we ever even consider entrusting them with a firearm.

Still, next best thing is just more tasers. I’ve never understood why people wouldn’t rather ALL cops have them. I realize they do, often, lead to serious injuries, but police sidearms lead to death. Under the circumstances, isn’t it always better for cops to have a non-lethal option on them at all times, than be forced to choose between harsh words and a gun because that’s all they have available?

Just my two cents.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Need more tasers

Tasers are "non-lethal" in the sense that, yes, they do not kill people as often as an actual gun does. But tasers are not 100% non-lethal weapons; if anything, training officers to use tasers more often might even increase the lethality of the weapon, as officers may begin overusing them (or keep continually shocking anyone shot with a taser) as part of a "just to be safe" mindset.

The best solution would come from multiple fronts: enacting better gun control, improving communities through bettering of the economy (amongst other things), and teaching de-escalation tactics to police officers. Handing officers more weapons — even "non-lethal" ones — will only give them an itchy trigger finger.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: The problem with more tasers

Is that tasers are drawn sooner than guns would be, and are not considered lethal force.

Once we changed policy so that tasers were regarded as lethal force, and a police officer was reviewed (charged and indicted as necessary) as if he had drawn a gun, then yeah, I could see a massive transition away from guns in general and toward tasers.

Preferably, police wouldn’t carry firearms unless a situation was known in advance to warrant it, in which case rifles and shotguns are appropriate.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Mandated Obedience Devices

I wrote a blog piece about mandated obedience implants.

TL:DR The devices we’ve seen in fiction (e.g. Star Trek) are of the worst kind: No warning and it just kills you. (Even Minority Report sentenced precriminals to prison).

The advantage of a mandated obedience system is that it could warn someone in advance of breaking the law, and then intercept the behavior. No further punishment is required.

The problem with such a system are the privacy issues we have with the NSA mass surveillance system or even with Google in that it would be prone to abuse. It would also be prone to unnecessary restrictions as magistrates decide to impose their own values on the people.

It’s mandated obedience devices like shock collars are something we wouldn’t want to consider in today’s political climate (the world over!) but in another era, another time, with a system that could compensate for the temptation to abuse it, it could actually work really well.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Subdermal RFIDs

I doubt subdermals will be mandated anytime soon. We encourage pets to be chipped because they often don’t carry ID if they escape their collars.

We also don’t yet have the infrastructure in place (e.g. a scanner on every bus or street car, and we’re already developing technology to block unwanted scans of RFIDs that are more common (e.g. credit card chips.)

So this is a very, very low tech compared to obedience chips or even the more dreaded mandated GPS tracker that are now used to monitor the movements of felons on parole.

freedomfan (profile) says:

Re: Need more tasers

The problem with tasers (or at least one problem) is that they are a physical assault, but they aren’t thought of that way by police or by most citizens. Basically, using a taser on someone should be considered in the same light as a take-down hold or a punch in the face. As long as officers consider the taser to be an “easy button” for compliance, it will be abused.

BTW, as with many things, a good way to determine how to think about a particular police procedure (tasing, choke holds, etc.) is to answer how the police would see it (i.e. what would the charges be) if a non-LEO used it on an officer.

Anonymous Coward says:

This will irk some police officers but its stupid and irresponsible to not want every shooting recorded. In practice its evidence that the officer is doing the right thing and a boon to the prosecution of cases. The only reason you could have to not want a recording when you pull out your gun is when you know you are not doing the right thing. TBH, those that object to it should not be working as police officers at all, they don’t deserve to have that much power in their hands.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

While I mostly agree with you, the statement

The only reason you could have to not want a recording when you pull out your gun is when you know you are not doing the right thing.

is not quite true. It’s entirely possible to think both that you’re doing the right thing, and also that other people will look at the same events and conclude that you were not doing the right thing.

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