American Fork officers' shoulder radios now have eyes
By Sara Israelsen-Hartley
Deseret Morning News
Published: November 16, 2007
AMERICAN FORK — With the push of a button, simple traffic stops by police become digital video clips, and messy domestic disputes are recorded for future review.
All 33 officers in American Fork are now sporting a new piece of police technology — the VIDMIC — which looks like an average shoulder radio but includes a 5.4 mega-pixel still camera and digital video camera.
"Now what the officer sees, the camera is going to see," said American Fork Police Lt. Sam Liddiard. "It's extending the range of the video camera that used to be facing forward in a police car."
Why had no one thought of this? asked Mike Marshall, vice president of sales and co-inventor of the VIDMIC. He and his father run the police-communication tool company EHS in Spanish Fork.
Jumping on the Internet, Marshall said he was sure someone had already capitalized on their brilliant idea but couldn't find anything.
So they got their producers to throw a few twists to make the radio a camera, applied for a patent and put it on the market, where it has exploded.
"Since we've had it out, we didn't expect it to be this successful," Marshall said. He said the "indisputable witness" of video footage will prevent frivolous lawsuits against police officers and will help solve criminal cases much more quickly.
The device recently won the innovation award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police at an October gathering in Louisiana, which they see as a huge nod of approval.
Nearly 300 departments across the country, including agencies in Los Angeles and New York, are testing the shoulder camera, Marshall said, and 80 departments have already purchased it, including Kane County.
West Valley City and Ogden are testing it, and talks with the Utah County Sheriff's Office are ongoing, Marshall said.
But it was American Fork Police Department that led the way, purchasing radios for each officer.
"We've been waiting, we've been looking for something like this," Liddiard said. "Every drunk driving stop, the attorney asks you, 'Did my client really do this?' Just play it. You can see for yourself the benefit just by watching the video."
The $700 camera has one gig of flash memory, meaning it can hold 1,000 still pictures or 3 1/2 hours of video.
And even when the visual memory is full, the radio still works, keeping officers in contact with the station. Once they've logged all that will fit, the officer will take his or her VIDMIC to the police chief or assigned officer to download.
In American Fork, only Liddiard has the password to download video and delete it from an officer's device. Officers can look at their own footage but cannot edit or delete.
There will also be new policies, Liddiard assures, to prevent manipulation or abuse of the camera, but right now all they have is an instruction to roll tape every time they respond on a call.
The camera can also help discourage negative police behavior, though Liddiard doesn't believe that will be an issue.
"I've never had a response from our law enforcement like I have from this product," said Robby Labb. "It's revolutionary. It's been received better than anything I've ever seen."
© 2007 Deseret News Publishing Company | All rights reserved
Cameras aid law enforcement agencies
By Bob Gibbins
Tahlequah Daily Press
March 19, 2008
Years ago, officer-involved shootings prompted many law enforcement agencies to look at ways to promote safety and started installing camcorders in their patrol vehicles.
The Tahlequah Police Department was one of those agencies.
Today, technology enables you to send an e-mail and take a photo with a telephone. That modernization has also allowed some area agencies to begin wearing cameras on their uniforms.
Neither TPD nor the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office utilize any of the mini-cameras.
“We have some ‘dash cams’,” said TPD Assistant Chief Brian Anderson.
“We don’t have anything the officers can wear on their uniforms.”
A story appearing in the Tulsa World and the Associated Press states Catoosa police and Tulsa sheriff’s deputies are testing the miniature camera that can videotape and take photos of an officer’s activity while being hidden on his uniform.
It’s little enough to be hidden in a walkie-talkie microphone.
Many officers put the VIDMIC in the “V” of their uniform shirt.
Anderson said he thinks such an item would be beneficial for officer safety.
The tiny camera has a 1 square inch screen and can record for up to 3-1/2 hours. Recordings can be downloaded to a computer.
“I can see that the cameras would benefit deputies,” Sheriff Norman Fisher said.
“They would be even better than something installed in the vehicle because a deputy could use them when he’s out of his patrol vehicle on a call.”
Approximately 80 agencies have purchased the VIDMICs.
“A camera can aid the safety of the deputy as well as the person or persons he’s dealing with,” the sheriff said.
“If someone comes to the office with a complaint on your personnel the documentation would be right there that either it happened or it didn’t.”
The technology is new to the market being developed in 2007 by EarHugger Safety.
New surveillance technology available to Morgan Hill police
By Michael Moore
Morgan Hill Times
September 10, 2008
Local police may soon be carrying a valuable tool to assist them in two fights - one against crime and the other against false complaints of misconduct.
The Morgan Hill Police Department is eligible for funds to purchase high-tech video equipment that can capture a virtual first-hand account of every move an officer makes.
The Association of Bay Area Governments Pooled Liability Assurance Network Corporation (ABAG PLAN) has announced that the VIDMIC device is now on the list of approved equipment that can be purchased with grant funds awarded by ABAG. The VIDMIC is a shoulder mounted camera that houses a color digital video recorder, a still photo camera, and a digital audio recorder.
Sgt. Jerry Neumayer of the Morgan Hill Police Department said his agency became interested in purchasing the equipment after one of their officers used a VIDMIC on a trial basis. He said reliable, comprehensive video footage of arrests and traffic stops will improve local law enforcement and prosecution of crimes.
"When people see and hear an actual event in court, that helps out," said Neumayer. "It can also help in proving someone's innocence, and in ensuring officers are doing their jobs correctly, and following procedures."
Morgan Hill police Cmdr. David Swing said the agency is eligible for ABAG funds to purchase devices that qualify as "risk management" equipment. He said the department is in the process of evaluating a variety of high-tech personal digital recording options, and making a decision on a purchase.
Kathleen Cha, senior communications officer for ABAG, a non-profit company which develops risk management programs for municipal agencies, said the department has taken advantage of numerous grants offered by the organization in the past.
Smile, you're on the VIDMIC
By Rhett Morgan
The Tulsa World
March 10, 2008
Several area police departments love the $700 device that's concealed in a shoulder microphone.
CATOOSA -- When it comes to a new law enforcement gadget called VIDMIC, veteran police officer Kevin McKim tends to gush.
"It's one of the best pieces of equipment, in the 32 years I've been in law enforcement, that I've ever seen," said McKim, chief of police for Catoosa Public Schools. "It's just dynamite."
Concealed in an operational shoulder microphone, VIDMIC is a full-color digital video and audio recorder, as well as a still photo camera. Developed in July 2007 by Utah-based EarHugger Safety (EHS), VIDMIC has been purchased by 80 agencies nationwide, including a couple in northeastern Oklahoma.
McKim said his department has bought four VIDMICs, and the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office has purchased three, Sgt. Bob Darby said. The Catoosa Police Department is testing the product, Chief Raymond Rodgers said.
"What it is is another set of eyes and ears for the officer," said David Swanson, an area sales representative for EHS.
Unlike dash cameras, which cost about $6,000 and are mounted in a vehicle, VIDMIC costs about $700 and is commonly placed in the "V" of an officer's shirt, Swanson said. Catching what stationary cameras can't, it features about a 1-by-1-inch screen and a 3-1/2-hour recording capacity.
The date- and time-stamped recordings may be downloaded to a computer and transferred to a disc. The still camera can be used to preserve on-scene evidence, such as injuries from a car crash, domestic violence or child abuse, McKim said.
The device is designed to reduce frivolous lawsuits, decrease agencies' liability, enhance officer professionalism and increase successful prosecutions, he said. His law enforcement team has used the technology for six weeks.
"When a person comes in and wants to fill out a proper complaint, I go to the video and it's either founded or unfounded," McKim said. "I can't find any negative right now to it."
Darby, a sergeant at the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, was among the officers who used the device to patrol last year's Tulsa State Fair. The sheriff's office still is evaluating the product for potential future purchases.
"It's a really neat tool," Darby said. "I thought it was great."
Rodgers, Catoosa police chief, said his department has been field-testing the VIDMIC for about three weeks. He will document the feedback to determine whether purchasing the technology is feasible.
Training officers how to obtain optimal video with VIDMIC would be a must, Rodgers said.
"There's not a perfect piece of equipment out there," he said. "But this is something that is very interesting, and it has a lot of potential."
U of M-Flint security will test body cameras
By Lori Dougovito
March 12, 2008
Recorder can capture any police encounter
FLINT (WJRT) -- (03/12/08)--We've all seen the dramatic pictures from cameras inside police cars. Now that same technology is going one step further in the fight against crime.
It's called a VIDMIC. It's a radio outfitted with a tiny camera and microphone. And right now police are testing it on a Mid-Michigan campus.
"It's cutting edge. This is new technology," said Chalmers Sanders, director of public safety at the University of Michigan-Flint. "I plan on buying five if it works."
They are shoulder radios complete with a camera and microphone. U of M-Flint police are testing one for the next month.
"We're trying them on day shift, afternoons, evening shift," Sanders said. "We want to see how it works in the real world, our real world."
"It's very simple to operate," said Officer David Hunter, who has used the VIDMIC this past week. "And then you're also able to review info."
Hunter says he thinks it'll help in the he said/she said instances.
"It protects officers as well as the citizens," Hunter said.
In August, new apartment-style dorms will house hundreds of students.
"All of a sudden we're a 24-hour campus," Sanders said.
The cameras could help if officers have to go inside the building.
"It puts them back on the street faster. I mean, they're able to do it right there without having to go back and get equipment," Hunter said. "Then just download it into computer. That's great, a great thing."
VIDMICs cost $700 apiece.
Belmar's VIDMICs are first in state
By Erik Larsen
Asbury Park Press
July 4, 2007
BELMAR — For years, dashboard cameras in police cars have been invaluable tools of law enforcement. Now, in this popular beach town, the cameras are hidden on the officers themselves.
Police here say they are the first in New Jersey to acquire VIDMICs, unveiled at an Atlantic City Police Security Expo in mid-June to promote new police technologies.
VIDMICs look and function just like regular two-way shoulder radios that officers wear over their uniforms. But these radios include a small, nearly indistinguishable lens peering out at the world from the center. The officer can turn the camera on and off.
The device records sound and video and shoots still photographs. The images recorded include a time and date stamp, so what's recorded can be used in court.
The borough has two and plans to purchase two more, Police Chief Jack Hill said. Police plan to use the cameras on foot patrols.
"It assists the officer in performing at a higher professional level," Hill said. If officers are being recorded, they "will conduct themselves in a professional manner. We in law enforcement have to take advantage of new technology to lower our liability exposure and protect our citizens and our officers."
Explained Special Officer Andrew Ragati, "It's just like instant replay on a football game."
Each camera costs $700, which includes the unit and software that downloads the data through a cable and USB port just like a digital camera, said Dick Cottrell, senior business development executive for Quality Communications in Lakewood. That firm represents EarHugger, the Utah-based manufacturer, in New Jersey.
First in N.J.
Cottrell said EarHugger owns the patent on the technology, and Belmar's is the first police department to acquire the product in the state and among the first in the United States. Previously, the cameras have only been used in trials among a select group of departments in Utah.
"On first blush, it sounded like a great idea, because of the limitation of the cameras in the car. While car cameras offer a great deal, they don't give the level of detail that this piece does," Cottrell said.
If the VIDMIC is employed during motor-vehicle stops in which a driver is suspected of being intoxicated, for example, the officer will be able to record his or her interaction with the driver, and the driver's appearance and demeanor, Cottrell said.
For a department's self-interest, the cameras also will either vindicate or make liars out of those who file excessive-force complaints, Cottrell said.
Belmar's policy will be to retain video and audio recordings for at least 120 days.
"There is the obvious benefit in seaside resort towns where there's so much activity going on, up and down at the boardwalks, and we won't even mention the police department the Press has just done a huge expose on," Cottrell said.
An Asbury Park Press investigation last month found Seaside Park had paid $1.5 million to settle five excessive-force lawsuits against police in the past two years without any admission of wrongdoing by the borough or the officers. The Press documented a total of 13 lawsuits filed by people who allege rough treatment during their arrests.
Ray Martyniuk, a spokesman for the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, said there's no doubt the technology will serve in evaluating the legitimacy of a complaint made against an officer. "If Belmar is the first department in New Jersey, then they will also be a laboratory for how this technology will be used," Martyniuk said.
"Pictures don't lie"
"The camera doesn't lie, pictures don't lie," said Shaun McGrath, 24, of Sea Girt, who operates a daily surfing clinic on the Third Avenue beach called "Summertime Surf."
About three weeks ago, he said, a group of teenagers tried to steal one of his instructor's cars. The keys had been left in the car at the 18th Avenue beach. After police intervened, "I took their picture with my camera," McGrath said.
The teens were not charged, but McGrath said, "As far as accountability, it'll keep everybody honest.
"Obviously, there are some things that are open to interpretation, but that's what the courts are for," he said.
The still-photography option enables police to snap pictures of evidence or a minor crime scene, Cottrell said.
Regarding potential concerns that the devices smack of Big Brother — undue government surveillance of individuals — Hill said there should be no expectation of privacy in public, but he acknowledged the cameras would be used in response to residential calls.
"The courts have ruled you don't have to notify you're recording, as long as one party is knowledgeable. All it's doing is recording the actions of the people in public, not private," Hill said. "It's no different than taking any photo in public. We're not intruding on anyone else's privacy."