In 2013, a survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) found that approximately 75 percent of the police departments polled did not use body-worn cameras. Since that time, there have been a number of high-profile incidents of deadly police response in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere, prompting law-enforcement agencies nationwide to reconsider deploying police-worn body cameras to both increase transparency and rebuild public trust. As part of the Obama Administration’s Community Policing Initiative, a $75 million investment is now being made to purchase 50,000 body-worn cameras for local law-enforcement agencies to foster greater levels of trust between police officers and the communities they protect and serve.
Visual Labs, working closely with Kyocera, is blazing the trail within the growing public-safety market. Born out of Stanford University and based in Menlo Park, CA, Visual Labs has developed powerful technology that turns smartphones into body-worn computers, arming law enforcement agencies—and others—with a cost-effective solution that can help keep officers safe, enable situation awareness, and provide video evidence in the case of complaint, investigation or trial.
The Visual Labs system is an end-to-end solution for public-safety agencies, delivering body-worn camera functionality (using the embedded camera of a body-mounted smartphone or a remote camera attached via USB cable), real-time positional awareness (leveraging GPS, cellular signals and Wi-Fi hotspots to monitor the location of personnel), video record and playback (which is searchable by virtually any distinguishing detail such as time, date, person, event, or even location), geo-fencing capabilities (enabling dispatchers and other personnel to monitor resources based on user-defined areas), and a remote-activation feature, which all could be used to enhance officer safety.
Another key feature that differentiates the Visual Labs solution is the ability to provide real-time video feeds via cellular networks, which offers critical situational awareness and support to law-enforcement supervisors working to coordinate timely and effective responses, such as in the case of an active-shooter or hostage situation. And because the solution is cloud-based, the capacity to securely store all videos, audio and photos is infinitely scalable.
A Single-Device Solution that Replaces Multiple Pieces of Equipment
Whereas most body-camera offerings are camera-only devices with proprietary infrastructures, Visual Labs has harnessed the power of the smartphone and its video functionality, transforming it into a body-worn computer without the need for officers to connect to any additional hardware. Plus, with a single device, an agency is able to obtain the functionality of a body-worn camera, a stand-alone digital camera, a personnel-location device (replacing in-car AVL units) and a fully functioning smartphone. Consequently, the total cost of the Visual Labs solution can be far less than that of competitive offerings, all with a single device.
The Kyocera Brigadier is a popular device among Visual Labs’ clients, providing an extremely high level of durability, longevity and connectivity, and can operate reliably under varied situations and environments. The Brigadier’s distinguishing features include:
- Rugged Design – the Brigadier’s inherently rugged design (IP68 and Military Standard 810G certifications) lends itself to the challenges and terrain that officers must navigate while in the field. The device is shock-, dust- and impact-resistant, as well as waterproof, with the ability to survive water immersion up to 6 feet deep for up to 30 minutes.
- Multiple Programmable Buttons – the Brigadier’s large, programmable buttons allow agencies to pre-configure one-touch video record functionality. Additionally, officers in the field can tag important video moments with the touch of a button.
- Connectivity – Kyocera offers rugged devices on all the major U.S. carrier networks, meaning there’s a solution available to every agency, no matter the network it chooses to use. The Brigadier is an affordable, off-the-shelf solution sold at Verizon and can typically be purchased for less than $100 on contract. As a result, the hardware acquisition cost for the Brigadier with the Visual Labs solution is much lower than that of other body-camera offerings.
- Battery Life – With a battery life of more than 14 hours under normal usage, the Brigadier easily lasts an entire shift without the need for an external battery pack, making it an attractive hardware device for law-enforcement agencies, for which longevity and reliability are critical.
While privacy rights are central to the debate surrounding police-worn body cameras, the technology is proving helpful in protecting the delicate relationships between law enforcement and communities. The San Diego Police Department, which has studied the effects of its body-cam deployments, recently found that the technology has led to fewer complaints by residents and less use of force by officers, with complaints falling 40.5 percent and the use of “personal body force” by officers reduced by 46.5 percent. These findings are indicative of the potential advantages resulting from police-worn body cameras, which are certain to trigger long-term public-safety benefits across communities nationwide.
To learn more about how Visual Labs is utilizing the Kyocera Brigadier and body-worn computers to lend transparency into police interactions and improve community relations, visit its web site or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Kyocera Brigadier, go to our web site or follow us on Twitter at @kyoceramobile.
John is director of corporate communications at Kyocera. He has worked on the Kyocera team shaping its communications strategy over the past 15 years – 13 of those years in-house and two with a Kyocera agency partner. John has always had a passion for writing and began his career as a newspaper reporter at the Whittier Daily News, part of a multi-paper syndicate in Los Angeles. When not working, he and his wife can usually be found coaching, shuttling, refereeing or cheering for his three sons and their numerous plays, concerts and sports teams.