Smile! You may be on Cotati PD camera
New body cameras give more complete picture of action on police stops
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By Mira Brody  November 8, 2013 12:00 am

The next time a Cotati Police Officer approaches you, smile, because you are most likely being recorded. As of right now, every officer on the force is now equipped with a small square camera that can be placed anywhere on their body and activated at the simple press of a button, capturing the next time you loiter, get pulled over or start a bar fight.

Since the 90s, every police car has had a small dash camera, able to record only those events that transpire directly in front of the vehicle. Since this device, although helpful, recently became unreliable and outdated, Cotati Police Chief Michael Parish decided it was time for a serious upgrade.

“Once the officers left the vehicle or moved away from the front of the car, you couldn’t see anything,” Parish says of the old technology, noting that it also lacked Mobile Audio and Video (MAV). “The camera that I chose was due to how the media was stored: the footage isn’t stored on a server, but on a security protected Cloud.”

A Cloud system is essentially a database where tons of information can be collected and shared between devices. Although the video cannot be watched in real time, at the end of their shift, officers will upload their data from their camera into the extremely secure Cloud network.

Before, footage had to be manually downloaded, which could take a while, and the quality was sub-par. With these new cameras, they are on at all times, and when an officer decides they need to capture some footage, they simply press a button and the camera “goes back 30 seconds from where you started,” saving the data into the Cloud.

At $300 each and a fee of $10.00 per device a month for use of the Cloud software, the cameras can receive quality footage even in the dark and are still being experimented with by the officers. All money was received from recent drug forfeiture.

“I can view what the officers are videotaping from my PC,” says Parish. “And if it were a criminal case, the video tape would be given to the District Attorney’s office and could be used in the court of law.”

In addition to their new recording gadgets, each officer has an iPhone 4s on the job in order to collect evidence – such as a threatening email or sharing photos of a recent suspect – and add it to their Cloud footage. This streamlines the organization of police evidence and enhances the speed at which officers can communicate, even from across town.

“This is a game changer,” says Parish, stressing that the technology exists to protect everyone. “We just upped our game, and I think it’s going to enhance prosecution and reduce lawsuits. It really removes question when there’s audio and video evidence.”

The uses of the devices are universal, from approaching a suspected shoplifter to simply being pulled over for a busted taillight; everything can be gathered as evidence, protecting both the officer and others involved during any altercation, major or minor.

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