CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Harris on "Head Cams" and the Fourth Amendment

Harris david David A. Harris (University of Pittsburgh - School of Law) has posted Picture This: Body Worn Video Devices ('Head Cams') as Tools for Ensuring Fourth Amendment Compliance by Police (Texas Tech Law Review, Forthcoming) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

A new technology has emerged with the potential to increase police compliance with the law and to increase officers’ accountability for their conduct. Called “body worn video” (BWV) or “head cams,” these devices are smaller, lighter versions of the video and audio recording systems mounted on the dash boards of police cars. These systems are small enough that they consist of something the size and shape of a cellular telephone earpiece, and are worn by police officers the same way. Recordings are downloaded directly from the device into a central computer system for storage and indexing, which protects them from tampering and assures a defensible chain of custody.

This article explores the good that BWV can do for both the police and members of the public, particularly how these recordings might play a role in assuring that officers comply with Fourth Amendment search and seizure rules. Field tests of BWV in Britain have shown that police used the devices to keep records and record evidence, and that the devices were a uniquely effective bulwark against false complaints. Coupled with a requirement that every citizen encounter involving a search or seizure be recorded, and a presumption that without a recording the factfinder must draw inferences in favor of the defendant, BWV can help resolve disputes over search and seizure activities, and give the public a heretofore unattainable degree of assurance that police officers enforcing the law obey it as they do so. While BWV is certainly no panacea, and presents significant issues of tampering and reliability, it can help bring accountability and rule following to an aspect of police behavior that has largely proven resistant to it.

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"While BWV is certainly no panacea, and presents significant issues of tampering and reliability"

There are no issues with tampering and reliability if you utilize one of our specially designed and manufactured Products. Having supplied the equipment in the BWV Trails in the UK that is referred to in this article, the unit has to be robust enough for daily law enforcement use and have specially developed security software. This Security Software provides an audit trail, which evidences the lawful use of the system, integrity of use and integrity of data.
We are not suggesting that BWV should be used as the 'Sole' evidence in Court but could be included as one of the 'arsenal' available to the Law Enforcement Professional which includes the trusty notebook, pen and 'statement'.For any product to be used as evidence in any criminal proceedings there must be evidence of continuity of handling of the product from the time it was first recorded to its production in Court as evidence. This is were so many 'copy' products from less experienced suppliers let down their Customers and leave the 'case' open rather than the quicker plea change to Guilty that Barristers are recommending their clients take when faced with evidence from our solution.

'Recordings are downloaded directly from the device into a central computer system for storage and indexing, which protects them from tampering'

Why should Budget 'pressed' Law Enforcement Departments spend huge sums on a central computer or be tied into something? With our solution you can download straight on to your existing laptop or local PC System with the evidence all secure, password protected and immune from tampering and altering with packages such as 'Photoshop'. Evidence should be protected, but the purpose of these systems is to rapidly turn around cases, disseminate the evidence to the people who need it such as prosecution and defense and get out on the streets again. Central Storage creates 'empire building' and not good practice when there is a need to share information and evidence with other Justice partners. These systems are designed to help law Enforcement not hinder them. These systems record sound and vision, and I for one would want to see the circumstances and situation leading up to an event and indeed the situation after the event to get the full picture. A quick 'snap shot' (which is what you get from competitor systems) whilst useful, doesn't provide the whole picture.

A summary of benefits from Audax Body Worn Systems:

● Increased Confidence in Policing.
● Increased Officer Visibility on the Streets.
● Increased conviction rates and less time in
● Increased officer awareness/safety.
● Improved agency accountability and quicker Complaint Investigation.
● Enhanced in-service training
● Improved community/media perceptions
● Advanced prosecution/case resolution

Summary of Headline results from UK Home Office Trials using our equipment:

Statistics from trials include:
● 10% reduction in violent crime
● 15% increase in offences brought to justice
● 30% reduction in officer time spent on paperwork
● 40% reduction in complaints against police

Posted by: Adam | Jun 8, 2010 6:14:01 AM

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