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Body cams may offer critical details, but only when used properly

Body cams may offer critical details, but only when used properly
Several tragic incidents in recent years have highlighted the importance of body-worn cameras for police. Footage from body-worn cameras often provides vital clues to an event. But in many countries, body-worn camera systems are still not the norm. For instance, in Canada, body cams are used only by some police services, but after the death of George Floyd in the US, and some other incidents within Canada itself, calls for broader use of the device are increasing.

Several solution providers offer body cameras in the market now, many of which provide exceptional performance. However, just fixing a camera would not guarantee the best results. In a whitepaper, Mission Critical Partners explained how to ensure the implementation of body cameras in police forces is a success. Here are some key points from it.
  1. Multi-factor authentication is important

A decision to implement body cameras may tend to begin with most of the focus being on the quality of the footage and the device. However, there are more important factors to consider. Footage that the camera captures will be of no use if the data is not secure.

“A two-factor authentication process should be implemented, at a minimum, to control access to captured and stored video,” explained Scott Neal, Communications Consultant at Mission Critical Partners, in the whitepaper. “Passwords, personnel-specific test questions, card-swipe systems, biometric systems (e.g., retinal and thumbprint scanners), and tokens that change authentication codes at pre-defined intervals (usually every 60 seconds) all are effective for this purpose.”
  1. Cloud-based storage could be more efficient

Once you make sure the device is secure, think about the storage of all the footage that the cameras would capture. More extensive use of body-worn cameras would result in more and more footage being generated, and this poses a storage challenge. Neal suggests that a managed storage system may be a more viable option.

“Such a service will be easier and potentially less costly—depending on the size of the agency—compared with implementing and managing storage onsite,” Neal pointed out. “However, one important caveat is to ensure that the service provides public safety-grade access, reliability, and security.”
  1. Have a clear-cut video retention policy

How long should footage be retained in the storage systems? What should be done with footage that is identified as evidence of an incident? All these are questions you will need to address as you adopt body-worn cameras. Neal explained that a best practice would be to delete the video from servers after downloading it to a DVD or USB drive. These external storage devices can then be kept in an evidence locker, which would dramatically reduce the amount of video that needs to be stored.

“Some agencies may be more comfortable with having a backup of the video on its servers even after the video has been placed into evidence; in order to ease the capacity strain,” Neal added. “It is suggested that such agencies craft a well-defined retention policy that allows video that is not categorized as evidence to be purged after a certain amount of time.”
  1. Control editing of the video

The footage that a body-worn camera captures would be of no use if they can easily be accessed and edited. So, when selecting a solution, make sure there are specific guidelines to make any edits to the video. If possible, go for a solution that does not allow editing of the video at all.

 “It is vitally important that technology-driven safeguards are in place that protect against unauthorized access and the ability to alter the video,” Neal said. “However, it should be noted that video redaction—e.g., the blurring of faces and license plates to protect the innocent—is becoming more prevalent, so a complete avoidance of video altering might not be possible. The situations where redaction is permissible need to be clearly defined in the agency’s video policies.”

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