News Smile, You’re on Cop Cam
posted by February 7 at 13:58 PMon
It’s been a big couple of weeks for police accountability in Seattle. The Seattle Police Officers’ Guild (SPOG) won a legal battle—for better or worse—to keep unredacted complaints out of the hands of the City Council’s police accountability review board, and Mayor Greg Nickels’ police accountability panel offered up a number of recommendations (PDF link) to improve policing in Seattle.
The city’s going to have to bargain with the police guild to implement a number of the panel’s recommendations, so while they’re at it, here’s something else they should try bargaining for:
Meet Vievu’s PVR-LE (Personal Video Recorder-Law Enforcement). It’s a lightweight, pager-sized, wearable video camera. Crazy, you say? Well, a similar system—albeit a totally awkward looking one—is being rolled out right now in the UK.
Vievu has been around for just over a month. They debuted their camera in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas—although they’re still working out a few kinks—but are hoping to start shipping to distributors in March. Oh, and did I mention that Vievu was founded by a bunch of local ex-cops?
Chris Myers, the company’s spokesman, left SPD in January, after 18 years on the force. He’s been around for all of the recent rumblings about accountability, and he doesn’t think cameras will be a hard sell—even though it took awhile for SPD to get cameras in all of their patrol cars. “When I first got my camera in the car, I wasn’t 100% comfortable with it,” he says. “Police work isn’t always pretty.” Still, Myers says, officers should see the cameras as a way to avoid unnecessary OPA complaints.
Indeed, when I spoke with SPOG President Rich O’Neil a few weeks ago, he pointed out that SPD’s in-car cameras have been used to exonerate officers on more than one occasion.
The cameras aren’t cheap—they’re about 700 bucks a pop for the more rugged law enforcement model, which records 4 hours of video—but this seems like a really simple way to keep both police and civilians honest.
Myers says Vievu’s been in informal talks with SPD, but when I called the department to ask about the idea of equipping officers with cameras, I was met with laughter.